Hawaii Today edited by Derek Paiva Page: 1 2 3 Next>>

Hawaii’s Thanksgiving means much more than turkey

Thanksgiving in Hawaii has a unique history—both ancient and modern.

Long before the Puritans were sailing to Plymouth Rock, the native Hawaiians already had a festival of thanks. And they didn’t limit themselves to a single day. They celebrated a successful harvest for an entire season

Makahiki ran four lunar months, from November through February, in ceremonies meant to honor the god Lono. (A modern day Makahiki ceremony is pictured here.) During this time rival tribes were prohibited from fighting, and the rainy weather prevented much work from getting done. Instead, there were surfing competitions, boxing matches and, of course, eating.

Makaainana (commoners) and alii (chiefs) in each district would offer pigs, fish and vegetables at an altar, which sat on the boundary of each ahupuaa (land-division). The warlord of each district would pass through, collect the goods, and sponsor a huge feast.

Fast forward to 1849. To further strengthen relations between Hawaii and America, King Kamehameha III declared December 31 a national holiday of Thanksgiving, complete with church services and luau. Why not November? Hawaii already had a holiday, called La Kuokoa, at the end of the month.

Still, even on a different date, Thanksgiving became official in Hawaii 14 years before President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday.

Now, of course, Thanksgiving is celebrated in Hawaii, along with the rest of the nation, and in much the same way, except we are as likely to imu our turkeys as roast them. And we supplement our feast with all the things people in Hawaii love, from laulau to sushi.

In fact, one restaurant on Oahu, Ho Ho Chinese Cuisine, has packaged turkeys to go with with 20 crispy gau gee, gon lo mein noodles and a custard pie.

Only in Hawaii.

Photo: Hawaii Sailing Canoe Association

Hawaii's Obama-rama runs rampant on the Web

The global fascination with President-elect Barack Obama has hit an all-time high—especially here in his boyhood home of Hawaii.  

Many Obama-themed Hawaii hotspots can now be tracked via the Internet thanks to a number of websites. Even the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) has created a page dedicated to the landmarks of Obama’s early years.

"Obviously, there's a lot of curiosity now about President-elect Obama and his life prior to being elected president," said John Monahan, president and CEO of the HVCB, to the Honolulu Advertiser.

Some of the places marked on the HVCB site:

•    Kapiolani Hospital for Women & Children, where Obama was born on Aug. 4, 1961.

•    Lower Makiki to East Honolulu. Obama lived in six different places and spent most of his youth in an apartment with his late grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn "Toot" Dunham.

•    A Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop on South King Street—one of Obama’s first jobs as a teenager.

•    East Oahu’s Sandy Beach (A bodysurfing Barack is pictured here) and Puu Ualakaa State Park on Tantalus, places he often hung out with family and friends. (He must have loved Puu Ualakaa’s fantastic panoramas. We would have to agree. You may recall it was chosen as the Best View in our Sept/Oct 2008 “Best of Hawaii” feature.)

Sites from Obama’s family vacation last August are also listed: Nuuanu Pali Lookout, Hanauma Bay, Rainbow Drive-In and the USS Arizona Memorial are among those included.

Another popular website, Obamasneighborhood.com, is attracting serious attention. Created by Hawaii-based writer Rob Kay after contributing to a Wall Street Journal story on Obama’s roots, the site comes complete with maps and detailed accounts of Obama’s stomping grounds

Photos: AP


Behind the scenes at the Hawaii Wheel of Fortune set

Hawaii_Wheel_of_Fortune_setWhen I heard Wheel of Fortune was coming to Hawaii to film 20 episodes on the Big Island, I couldn’t wait to take the next flight from Honolulu to Waikoloa.

After watching America’s No. 1 game show being filmed at the Hilton Waikoloa, I have a greater appreciation for the show, especially the hard work that goes into taping each episode.

“When you mention Wheel of Fortune, you think of the two of us,” says Pat Sajak, “and yet in a weird way, we do less work than anybody. Viewers don’t know exactly how many people worked really hard on the set.”

Pat’s right. Co-hosts and HAWAII Magazine readers, Pat Sajak and Vanna White, may be the only familiar faces to viewers, but there are many more people who you don’t get to see—cameramen, stylists and designers, production managers, heavy equipment operators, publicists, stage crew and security personnel.

To construct the Wheel of Fortune set on a lawn at the Hilton Waikoloa Village took 1.8 million pounds of equipment, shipped to Hawaii in 57 trailers and containers. Some of that equipment was parked right outside my hotel room.

Here’s a look behind the scenes at the Wheel of Fortune set in Hawaii. Click on the slideshow screen for larger photos.

[Note: Click here for the schedule of Hawaii shows airing in November 2008 and February 2009. You can even win a free trip to Hawaii by solving the bonus round. Click here for more info.]

Photos by Sherie Char


Christmas trees in Hawaii signal the holidays

Christmas_trees_in_HawaiiFor Hawaii residents like myself, the start of the Hawaii holiday season is marked by one thing— the sight of tightly wound Christmas trees by the boatload.

The first large cargo of Noble, Douglas, Grand and Norman firs arrived at Honolulu Harbor last Saturday, straight from the shores of the Pacific Northwest.  Matson Navigation Co. expects to bring more than 100,000 trees to Oahu where they will be distributed to local supermarkets, shopping outlets and throughout the neighbor islands.

By weekend’s end, agriculture inspectors had gone through half of the more than 100 containers, searching for invasive alien species.  No easy task considering each container holds about 300 trees.

But those aren’t the only Christmas trees on Hawaii. The Norfolk Pine (pictured here at central Oahu's Helemano Farms) is Hawaii’s native alternative—a unique confier that grows throughout the South Pacific.

We featured the Norfolk Pine and other Island Holiday Traditions in last year’s Nov/Dec issue of HAWAII Magazine. Click here to order a copy and read it for yourself.

The Norfolk may not resemble the tree standing in Rockefeller Center or in the Charlie Brown Christmas special, but there is some history behind it. For years now, a 50 plus-foot Norfolk was the centerpiece of the annual Honolulu City Lights celebration. 

And did we mention their needles don’t fall off either? Always a plus in our books.

Whether you’re pro-Norfolk or not, the holidays are upon us, and there’s not a snowflake in sight.

Photo: Helemano Farms

Who made Vanna White’s Hawaii-designed dresses?

Vanna_White_Hawaii_designed_dressesIf you’re watching the Big Island-filmed episodes of Wheel of Fortune this week, you may have noticed a change in the wardrobe worn by celebrity co-hosts, and HAWAII Magazine readers, Pat Sajak and Vanna White.

No tie for Pat. No sequined gowns for Vanna. Why? Because they’re in Hawaii.

Pat’s been wearing Tommy Bahama aloha shirts while Vanna has been wearing dresses created by Honolulu fashion designer Anne Namba.

Namba, who has been designing clothes since 1986, said that she was excited to hear that Vanna’s stylist Roberta Wagner wanted her to see some of her designs.

“There were three requirements that I had to follow,” says Namba. “Nothing blue or green—because it would clash with the ocean and trees in the background. The dresses had to be formfitting to show off Vanna’s svelte figure. And, of course, sleeveless so they wouldn’t get in the way when she turned the letters.

Vanna_White_Hawaii_designed_dresses“Roberta also told me what colors look good on her: peach, yellow and red. I sent over eight outfits and they picked five—a week’s worth.” Namba created Vanna’s Asian-influence dresses by using a combination of silk and the material from vintage kimono or obi (Japanese sash).

The Namba-designed dresses that Vanna wore have since been sold. If you’re hoping to snag a duplicate, you’re out of luck. “They were one-of-a-kind,” says Namba.

Vanna will be wearing Namba’s designs for a few more “Wheel goes Waikoloa” episodes airing tonight, Nov. 24 and 25. For the complete schedule of the Big Island-filmed episodes, click here. You can even win a free trip to Hawaii, just by watching.

Fun facts: Vanna White has worn nearly 5,000 dresses on Wheel of Fortune—and she’s never worn a dress twice.

(Above): Vanna White and Anne Namba pose by
Wheel of Fortune’s famous puzzle board.
(Left): Namba hanging out with Roberta
Wagner behind the set.

Photos by Sherie Char


Hawaii artist Peggy Chun dies

Hawaii_artist_Peggy_Chun_diesHawaii artist Peggy Chun, known for her brilliant watercolor portraits of Island life and brave battle to continue her art even as a neurodegenerative disease seized control of her body and life, has died.

Chun passed away last night after a six-year fight with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. She was 62.

Diagnosed with ALS in 2002 at the height of her skills and fame, Chun decided early on that the disease would inspire, not rob her of, her creativity. A year after her diagnosis, she was no longer able to paint with her right hand—so she learned to use her left. When Chun’s ability to paint with that hand ended in 2004, she held her brush between her teeth and painted that way. When the disease stole all mobility and Chun was completely paralyzed, she used a computer program that read her eye movements. 

When that even failed, she signaled her intentions with her eyes so that collaborators could execute her art work.

Hawaii_artist_Peggy_Chun_diesShe never stopped painting. “After all, you don’t paint with your hands, you paint with your heart,” she wrote on her Web site.

Chun’s Hawaii-inspired paintings—some serious, many whimsical—attracted a strong following both in Hawaii and worldwide. She painted Hawaii landmarks, plants, architecture, landscapes, crafts and even her beloved cats. Her cat paintings were turned into a children’s book, The Watercolor Cat, by writer Shelly Mecum.

Hawaii_artist_Peggy_Chun_diesServices for Chun will be held Dec. 5 at historic Kawaiahao Church in downtown Honolulu. Visitation will begin at 1 p.m., services at 2 p.m.

A nicely written tribute to Chun’s life and art by Honolulu writer Lee Cataluna ran in The Honolulu Advertiser daily newspaper this morning. It’s well-worth a read.
Images and art: Peggy Chun (top); "Celebration in the Banana Patch" by Peggy Chun (middle); "Kalaupapa" by Peggy Chun (bottom)

Four Seasons Manele Bay on Lanai escapes brushfire

Manele_Bay_Escapes_BrushfireThings got scary for a while yesterday on the usually peaceful island of Lanai. A brushfire broke out near the Palawai Basin—a large expanse of pasture land once home to the island's long gone pineapple industry. Strong winds quickly fanned the flames across the island’s dry, barren fields and down Manele Bay Road.

Standing in the fire’s path was the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay. The fire raged roughly a mile from the resort when approximately 600 guests and staff were evacuated onto boats in nearby Manele Bay Harbor.

But not to worry. As of yesterday evening, conditions were deemed safe enough to allow everyone to return to the resort—even as firefighters worked well into the night fighting the flames.

The brushfire never threatened the island's main residential center, Lanai City, or its other Four Seasons property, the Lodge at Koele.

According to a statement released by the Four Seasons Manele Bay, the evacuation was a precautionary measure.

“The good news is everyone is back safe and it’s business as usual,” said Michelle Edwards, public relations manager of Four Seasons Resorts Lanai.

Even better news: There were no reports of injuries or structural damage anywhere on Lanai. However, fire officials are encouraging people to exercise caution when traveling the island. Conditions remain windy and the fire is not yet considered completely contained.

Photo: Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay

"The Hawaii Snowman" sure to melt hearts this winter

Hawaii_snowmanLooking for a great stocking stuffer for your ohana this Kalikimaka?

Might we suggest The Hawaii Snowman—a new children’s book by Hawaii-based writer Christine Le.

We know, the concept seems a bit bizarre. But you'd have to be a Grinch not to be enchanted by the story’s fantastical wonderment.

It’s five days until Christmas. A lonely snowman sits abandoned atop a ski resort. He spots a shooting star, and the moon tells him to make a wish. His dream? To travel to Hawaii for the winter.

He hops on board a passing freighter and finds himself in the midst of a winter’s night in Waikiki—a cool place to be, yes, but not freezing cold. He soon realizes when the sun arrives, he will be reduced to a puddle. 

He’s already shrinking as he takes snow from his body and gives it to others—whether it’s an ice sculpture in need of repair, or a trio of thirsty flowers. It’s through this generosity of spirit that the snowman learns firsthand of the Aloha Spirit. 

Hawaii_snowmanThe story is excelled by the art—beautiful illustrations by Christine’s husband Michel Le. Waikiki is brought to life in rich golden hues, each page softened to an ethereal glow. The snowman protagonist is drawn with elegant simplicity; a few basic shapes and lines convey emotion and subtle expression wonderfully.

We expect children and more than a few adults will fall in love with The Hawaii Snowman. But don’t take our word for it…

The book is currently available in Hawaii bookstores and at online retailers for $14.95.

Artwork courtesy of Mutual Publishing, LLC

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel announces new reopening date

Mauna_Kea_Beach_Hotel_new_reopening_dateDecember 20, 2008—that’s when the long-shuttered Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on Hawaii’s Big Island will reopen to guests. The resort had announced a January 2009 reopening date earlier this year.

The 43-year-old luxury resort shut down after an October 2006 earthquake caused structural damage. More than $150 million has been invested in the Kohala Coast resort’s renovation.

There are fewer guest rooms to reserve—258 instead of 310. But, as these new photos show, they’re larger and completely refurbished from beds to baths to amenities. Common areas and restaurants were also redesigned. Front desk check-in will be replaced by seated, personalized check-in for all guests. Many longtime hotel employees will be back on the job for the reopening.

Mauna_Kea_Beach_Hotel_new_reopening_dateEven the Mauna Kea Golf Course has been given a makeover by Rees Jones—son of original course designer Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The United States Golf Association-approved course will debut in December with a new clubhouse.

Click here for more preview photos of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel redesign. Call (866) 977-4589 to make a reservation.

A gala grand opening week for the resort is being planned for March 25 to 29, 2009. Packages and amenities will be announced soon. Expect much pomp and circumstance.

Photos: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Hawaii’s newest spa at the Moana Surfrider

Moana_Surfrider_SpaWaikiki has a new beachfront spa—the only one of its kind.

The Moana Surfrider’s Moana Lani Spa opened its doors Oct. 1. Last night was its grand opening party, and HAWAII Magazine was invited.

The 17,000-square-foot beachfront spa offers all you would expect: Jacuzzis, steam and sauna rooms, even couples’ treatment suites. The spa uses an assortment of products, including Malie Organics, a Kauai company that uses organic ingredients from Hawaii (learn more about Malie Organics in “What’s New” in our September/October 2008 issue of HAWAII Magazine).

Moana_Surfrider_SpaBesides the pupu (appetizers) and drinks from the Beachhouse at the Moana, we were treated to mini hand and foot massages. I got a foot massage (that’s Tomoko pictured above), while our editor John Heckathorn patiently waited in the longer line for a shoulder massage.

During the tour, we got to see the fitness center and several treatment rooms. The room that intrigued me the most was equipped with a “vichy shower.”

The origin of the Vichy shower can be traced back to France. The extended showerhead contraption has four nozzles, two spouts on each end (pictured below). It allows the therapist to drizzle warm water over your body to wash off the body scrub. The only drawback? 

Moana_Surfrider_Spa“The therapist can get pretty wet,” says massage therapist Karen-Marie, “but it’s a lovely experience for the client.”

The spa wasn’t offering private full-body treatments last night, but I can’t wait to return to try the vichy shower spa experience.

Photos by Sherie Char
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