Hawaii to Celebrate Obama's Inauguration Aloha Style

Hawaii wants to send favorite son Barack Obama to the White House aloha style.

Island residents and enthusiasts are descending on the nation's capital this weekend to revel in the elevation of a Hawaii-born president. They are throwing a state inaugural ball -- Hawaii's first -- and what surely must be the first inaugural luau.

"We just really wanted to bring Hawaii and share the aloha," said Stacey Hayashi, organizer of the $300-per-ticket Inaugural Luau at the Hotel Monaco four blocks from the White House.

"There's a lot Hawaii has to share -- the spirit of aloha, all our different cultures -- and that's America," Hayashi said.

Most Hawaii events are sold out, but tickets were still available for the luau in the days before the inauguration.

For the people of Hawaii, the Jan. 20 inauguration is a great opportunity to advertise Hawaii's diversity and friendly spirit to the rest of the country -- not to mention its leis, luaus, hula dancing, traditional music and distinctive cuisine like Spam musubi (a bit like sushi with Spam instead of raw fish) and kalua pig (pig slow-cooked in a pit).

The word "aloha," used in Hawaii to say hello and goodbye, carries a range of other connotations, including a generous and open attitude prized by residents. It's that ideal that Hawaii residents see in Obama -- and want the world to see at the inauguration.

"The aloha spirit is what shaped President Obama and that same aloha spirit is what we're going to have at our event," said Kohono Mossman, who's organizing the first inaugural ball thrown by the Hawaii State Society of Washington, D.C. "That aloha spirit is what our state and so many other groups celebrating up here is sharing with the world."

Famous among Hawaii boosters is a statement made by Michelle Obama: "You can't really understand Barack until you understand Hawaii." Obama was born in Honolulu and spent most of his youth there raised by his grandparents.

He attended the prestigious Punahou School in Honolulu, which is sending its marching band and JROTC marching unit to perform in the inaugural parade. Obama's former homeroom teacher will be in town, and an alumni event is planned for the day before the inaugural.

Jesse Broder Van Dyke, press secretary for Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and a Punahou graduate himself, said several old classmates are coming to stay with him for the inaugural.

"One of my roommates is from Illinois, and we argue over who gets to claim Obama. Hawaii gets to. He grew up in our state," Broder Van Dyke said. "So many people are coming from the islands it will feel like home."

In one way, though, Hawaii's inaugural pride may clash with one of the state's most famed features -- its deliciously balmy beach weather. The Web site of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on Thursday featured a story about residents shopping for thermal underwear to make the trip to frigid D.C.: "Locals seek ways to stay warm for Brrrrr-ack Obama's big day."

Some of the parade marchers from Hawaii practiced for the Washington cold at Hawaii's only ice rink.