Hawaii’s “Ohana” Tailgates Rival Stateside Tailgates

Harrison Goo

Hawaii is a cultural melting pot. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Authors and scholars have long since associated this term with the local culture here in Hawaii, championing the state as a mecca of racial and cultural integration. And, to a certain extent, they are right. A long history of such integration has led to the locals here developing a reputation for embracing everyone, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. One needs to look no further than the tailgates around Aloha Stadium on University of Hawaii Football game day for proof of this fact.

This past week, for example, the Hawaii Football team was scheduled to play the New Mexico State Aggies. As usual, we gathered together at the stadium to tailgate about 4 hours before the game was scheduled to start. How many of us were there? Well that depends on how you’re counting. Around our little hibachi there were 12. But overall? My guess is about 15,000. See, the unique thing about tailgating outside a Hawaii Football game, is that there are really no individual tailgates. Sure people might be sitting in their own areas, but everyone is really tailgating together.

Random people will walk by and stop to make conversation with someone they’ve never met. Kids will get a game of football going on the asphalt, and others will just jump in, no introduction required. Forgetful tailgaters will come around asking for a cup, or a knife, or some extra beer and people will happily comply (although maybe offering a playful chiding along with it.) What’s my point here? Hawaii has built itself as a tourist destination based around several concepts unique to the state, perhaps the most important being the idea of “Ohana” (family). What’s so special about this word? For many, family implies blood relation. In Hawaii, it encompasses so much more. In Hawaii your “Ohana” is not just your mom and your sister, it’s your mom’s best friend, your sister’s best friend, and your best friend. It’s your favorite teacher or your favorite boss. Ultimately, the true meaning of the word is that it includes everyone who is important to you, not just those that share your blood. That’s why when people come here they aren’t just drawn to the sun and the beach, but to the welcoming spirit of “Ohana” exuded by the locals. Hawaii tailgates are no different.

I’ve tailgated at other venues before and my experiences have generally been very positive. But there’s a big difference between friendly tailgater’s and Hawaii’s Ohana. Friendly tailgaters will wave hello and maybe compliment your attire. Ohana will embrace you and tell you how great you look…even if they’ve never seen you before. Friendly tailgaters will be polite and keep to themselves. Ohana will bring you over, sit you down and introduce you like their brother/sister…even if you’ve just met. In my opinion, there is tailgating, and then there is Hawaii tailgating. And don’t get me wrong. Hawaii tailgaters are not the most avid or knowledgeable football fans. In fact, people will freely admit that they don’t really care about the football, they just go to drink and socialize with friends. But at the end of the day, that tells you something. For some, the tailgating is strictly about the football. For others it’s just about the eating and drinking. But at Hawaii tailgates, above all else, it’s about the Ohana.

“Harrison Goo is a contributor to CBS Local and the founder of the blog Sportsgooru.com. To contact him, email him at harrison@sportsgooru.com follow him on twitter at @sportsgooru.”

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One Comment

  1. Fernalen says:

    Big Country, this is in response to the Toughest Place post. First of all, I don’t think one staudim really qualifies as a list, where’s the rest? Can we get a top 10? Also, we all know the real Death Valley is in Clemson. One request for you, what are your thoughts on the self-imposed restrictions Michigan put themselves on? Do you feel that’s enough? Or should they get more? I mean, we’re talkin bout practice, right?

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