Hula world mourns 'Auntie' Dottie
By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Staff Writer
The hula world today mourned the death of "Auntie" Dottie Thompson, a passionate advocate for the art despite the fact that she was neither Hawaiian nor a dancer.
Thompson was instrumental, with the late "Uncle" George Naope, in shaping the Merrie Monarch Festival and its prestigious hula competition. She died Friday at age 88.
Honolulu kumu hula and sometimes Merrie Monarch judge Vicki Holt Takamine said that Thompson was so focused on creating a true-to-history, respectful showcase for hula -- "the heartbeat of Hawai'i, as the Merrie Monarch slogan says -- that she at times spent her own money to keep the festival afloat.
Today, the three nights of competition are perennially sold out (this year's festival is April 4-10 with hula competition April 8-10).
"She dedicated her life to success of the Merrie Monarch," said Holt Takamine, who noted that Thompson was a master at cajoling everyone from lawmakers to Harley Davidson bikers to help out, keeping ticket prices low and maintaining the spirit of Hilo's 'ohana-oriented, laid-back style.
She was, herself, a volunteer.
"It was never about her," said Holt Takamine. "It was always about Merrie Monarch, the festival, the competition, the institution. People knew that. That's why they responded to her."