The Los Angeles Hoʻolauleʻa is not only the largest hoʻolauleʻa on the continental United States, it was also the first when it started in 1978. The annual July hoʻolauleʻa, or Hawaiian festival, draws about a hundred thousand people every year who come for a taste of Hawaiʻi and the non-stop Hawaiian music and performances.

Southern California has the largest population of University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa alumni outside of the 50th state along with thousands of Southern California residents with strong ties to Hawaiʻi. For the first time in 2015, UH Mānoa was a LA Hoʻolauleʻa participant and the UH representatives received a warm Hawaiʻi welcome.

“It makes a statement about the connection of the university to Hawaiians outside of Hawaiʻi,” said UH Mānoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman. “The University of Hawaiʻi has a responsibility to educate and to educate Hawaiians and people from Hawaiʻi and people associated with Hawaiʻi everywhere.”

Students and faculty from the UH Mānoa Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge and other UH administrators, including the chancellor, staffed the UH Mānoa booth near the front entrance.

UH Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge students

They answered questions and provided information to prospective students and their parents, like the fact that students with Native Hawaiian ancestry may be eligible for in-state tuition. The UH contingent also promoted the wide variety of nationally and internationally recognized programs and opportunities Mānoa has to offer.

“We have some people from Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies, and we also have people talking about the graduate and undergraduate programs so we’re just showing all of our services and different colleges,” said Christian Tabor, a UH Mānoa student.

UH Hawaiʻinuiākea students also gave demonstrations such as poi pounding, the ancient Hawaiian practice of pounding down cooked kalo or taro corms to a thick paste and adding water to create poi, a staple of the Hawaiian diet. Students also wowed the crowds with a number of Hawaiian music performances.

The local UH alumni chapter has long been a part of the LA Hoʻolauleʻa. Organizers say UH Mānoa is also a natural fit.

“It’s an opportunity for our young kids to go and talk to them about higher education and that’s what we wanted to push,” said Sharon Kuʻuipo Paulo, president of the Hawaiian Inter-Club Council.

UH Foundation made full use of the opportunity and sponsored an alumni event the Saturday night between the two-day hoʻolauleʻa at a nearby Hawaiian style restaurant.

It gave UH alumni in the area a chance to connect with each other and current UH students and administrators.

“I think it is very important especially for a lot of us alumni who are living on the mainland,” said 1982 UH Mānoa graduate Nolan Tanaka. “Sometimes, you’re kind of dispersed but when we get together it feels like we are back home in Hawaiʻi.”

On the second and final day of the hoʻolauleʻa, the UH Hawaiʻinuiākea students gave a traditional Hawaiian welcome to a group of incoming UH Mānoa students who just graduated from California high schools.

“I feel like they just brought me into their family. Like I have been family with them forever and this is like some big reunion,” said Alexandra James, an incoming UH Mānoa freshman. “It was just so full of aloha and love. It was a wonderful experience.”

The LA Hoʻolauleʻa is the perfect setting for UH to strengthen ties with the community and alumni—a Hawaiian oasis in the heart of Southern California.

“This really feels like home,” added Bley-Vroman. “This could be Kapiʻolani Park. I feel like I am at home and the people here are so supportive. You see the aloha spirit is not just in the islands. It’s here as well.”

UH Mānoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman greets Los Angeles Hoʻolauleʻa guests.