When the University of Hawaiʻi football team is competing on the road, like UH’s 2014 trip to the University of Colorado, they are always accompanied by a dedicated group of fans—traveling Hawaiʻi residents and UH graduates and former residents who live in the area. The UH Alumni Association brings them all together during a few road games each year.
“Our mission at the University of Hawaiʻi Alumni Association is to connect alumni and friends and build pride in the university,” said alumni president Ken Hayashida.
“Being able to rally around the team and getting the chapter together is real important for us,” said Lance Tanaka, the president of the alumni association’s Colorado chapter. “We are spread out in Colorado and something like this really brings us together and makes us feel like we belong with UH.”
Many fans travel by themselves while others buy tours from UH partners Panda Travel and World Wide Travel. And on every trip, fans make a point of taking in the local sites.
“The weather has been great and we have been visiting a lot of places and now we are at the Coors brewery,” said UH football fan Leighton Wong during a daylong tour.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful state,” said fellow fan Gail Horita. “And the highlight of our tour is this Coors tour. This is the last event of the day and it’s super.”
“It’s been fun,” agreed Wong. “Met a lot of new people on the tour and stuff so, we are just waiting for tomorrow and hopefully a win.”
On game day before kickoff, the alumni association, the association’s local chapter and UH sponsors put on a tailgate event, Hawaiian style, with local food, music and entertainment, drawings and more.
“A lot of aloha spirit and they had the dancers and musicians,” said Richard Lum of Worldwide Travel. “Everything turned out real good.”
“We have been to four so far, in the past, but I think this is really the best that we have ever been at,” said UH fan Nora Toma. “The outdoors, the venue, it was just beautiful.”
“To have a whole bunch of Hawaiʻi fans coming up, visiting us, makes us feel like we are in Hawaiʻi for a little bit,” said Tanaka.
UH can never thank the traveling Hawaiʻi fans enough. During his speech at the tailgate event, UH Athletic Director Ben Jay asked everyone to give the traveling fans a round of applause.
“Some of them are headed to Vegas afterwards, too, but they are our truly loyal and dedicated fans,” said Hayashida.
Shortly after every UH Alumni tailgate event, it’s game time, where the fans cheer on the UH Rainbow Warriors.
“I think it is great,” said Toma. “I think we can just come together as ʻohana and just celebrate the team because they need our support.”
“Every UH fan should make the effort to join the team on the road,” agreed Horita. “It is just remarkable.”
“Come out and meet your fellow alumni,” encouraged Hayashida. “Get together and have a good time. It’s a great way to network but also to show your pride and loyalty to the University of Hawaiʻi.”