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Merrie Monarch Festival still uncertain because of pandemic

HILO (AP) — Plans for the world’s most prestigious hula competition remain uncertain because of the pandemic.

In normal times, thousands of people from around the world descend on Hilo on Hawaii island for the Merrie Monarch Festival. The event is often referred to as the Olympics of hula.

Festival President Luana Kawelu said next year’s event is planned for April and will return to its usual schedule, but ìthis is all up in the air yet,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Friday.

This year’s festival was held in June in an almost empty stadium using music that was prerecorded in a Honolulu studio. Those with stadium access remained in a bubble for the week and underwent COVID-19 testing and temperature checks.

Other events surrounding Merrie Monarch week, including a parade, were canceled and remain uncertain for 2022.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth is optimistic the festival can be held before a live audience because of a steady decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past few weeks, spokesperson Cyrus Johnasen said.

Kawelu wants to start selling tickets but it’s not clear how many spectators will be allowed inside the stadium. Tickets, which usually go on sale in December, sell out quickly.

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