Juneau resident Tianna Vidal is in Hilo, Hawaii, this week fulfilling a lifelong dream: participating in the Merrie Monarch Festival, an annual international hula competition for which she has been preparing since September. The festival, founded in 1964, celebrates the art of hula and other aspects of traditional Hawaiian culture, and is considered the premiere event of its kind in Hawaii.
Vidal was born on the island of Kauai in 1983. According to her father, Juneau resident Bruce Walter, she started dancing hula soon after she started walking. Encouraged by her mother Addy, a former Tahitian dancer, Vidal’s love for hula soon became her passion.
Vidal moved to Juneau in 2004, and now works as a hair stylist in her family owned business, Cuts Online Salon. She continues to dance hula in Juneau whenever she can.
The Merrie Monarch Festival began as a way to attract tourists to the island of Hawaii and give an economic boost to the area. It was named for King David Kalakaua, the last king of the Hawaiian islands. During his 17-year reign, King Kalakaua worked to reestablish traditional Hawaiian culture through music and dance and is credited with helping spur both the revival of hula and the popularity of the ukulele. His focus on the celebratory elements of Hawaiian culture earned him the nickname “the Merrie Monarch.”
Today, the three-day festival named in his honor receives worldwide recognition for its historic and cultural significance.
For more information, visit www.merriemonarch.com.