Monday, July 5, 1999

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Fireworks lit the sky above the USS Missouri last night.

This year, Oahu
had even Mo

The USS Missouri joined
Ala Moana park as one of
the Fourth's places to be

By Leila Fujimori


Of the 40,000 people celebrating Independence Day at Ala Moana Beach Park, no one had better seats than Karli Miyata and her three friends. They paddled out on their surfboards from Kewalo Basin to Magic Island.

The glassy ocean reflected the fireworks above. "It lit up the whole ocean," said Miyata. "It was spectacular." They plan to do it again next year because "it wouldn't be the same from shore," she said.

Leecia Oshiro likes having fireworks on her birthday. She shares her birthday with America, turning 22 while America turned 223 yesterday. She and 30 friends and family celebrated both birthdays on the beach at Ala Moana.

Meanwhile about a thousand others danced to live swing music on the teakwood deck of the USS Missouri last night and were also treated to a fireworks display.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
At right, Alex Dimitriadis sported a beard
decorated by Fantastic Sam's.

"It's the first public evening event since the Missouri came here," explained Barbara Hallberg, general manager of Tom Moffatt Productions, which put on the event. "A couple of people here tonight have actually served on the ship. It's nice they can come and party on the ship."

Ed Yee, a first-time visitor to Ford Island and the battleship, wore a red, white and green lei and his dancing shoes to the Mighty Mo bash. He and his wife Janet Murphy were celebrating his birthday three days early.

Oddly enough, "our friends in the Brit Club -- British expatriates -- told us about this," Yee said.

Wearing a long red dress, Jony Santiago asked Roman Bayan to dance the cha cha as the band played "Stranger in Paradise." They and their Waipahu dance class came to enjoy the party.

But Pastor Ralph Moore of Hope Chapel in Kaneohe said he's too klutzy to dance. He was soaking up the ship's atmosphere because he's a war history buff.

Jesse Farrar, a former Marine sergeant, brought his wife Corrina and their 11-month old daughter Jessika on board the Missouri. Farrar didn't think the $25 entrance fee was too much since "the money is being utilized to refurbish the ship and to keep it open for the public."

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Visitors to the USS Missouri Tara Tomoyasu, left, and
Chad Kishimoto look over the floating museum.

He said they almost went to Ala Moana, but he thought the Missouri event was "very patriotic" and a great place to be on the 4th of July.

Visitors could tour the ship, enjoy pupus, drinks and the swing music of Sgt. Willie Barton ad the Company B Boogie Woogie Band. The weekend-long party started Saturday with entertainment and tours continuing until today.

Others preferred to picnic for free along the pier at Ford Island with the Mighty Mo nearby and a view of the fireworks across the harbor. At sunset, Dayna Wilbanks sipped her wine and enjoyed the panoramic view on the waterfront with her husband who works on Ford Island, a couple of his workmates and their families. Their holiday menu featured barbecued steaks, pasta salad and quiche. Earlier they spent the day in Waikiki at the Hale Koa Hotel until 4 p.m.

Wilbanks cited "no crowds" as one of the main reasons for choosing the spot.

That was not the case at Ala Moana Beach Park. Traffic backed up for blocks on Ala Moana Boulevard before and after the 30-minute fireworks display. And Ala Moana Center had entertainment just prior to the fireworks.

Norman Oshiro of Mililani and his family walked three blocks to sit along Ala Moana Boulevard to see the fireworks. "One year I parked at Ala Moana Center. Never again."

To secure a spot at the park requires preparation. Melvin and Vicky Ibale started Friday packing their 10- by 20-foot canopy, picnic table and grill. They awoke yesterday at 2:15 a.m., packed up their four kids, food and other items and left their house in Mililani at 3 a.m. to arrive by 4 a.m.

"It's a lot of work, but it's worth being with the family," Melvin said. Three generations of the Ibale family joined them and had breakfast, lunch and dinner together.

"It seems like every year, we have to get up earlier and earlier," Ibale said. "The park is over its capacity. There's no parking."

Josephine Gipaya had only one complaint: "Only thing wrong was the bathrooms. The line was so long, my daughter had to go across to Sears and then come back."

But crowding was also a problem. Gipaya's cousin Florence Motofuji and her family couldn't find a spot to picnic.

"Magic Island was a solid wall of people" and in Ala Moana Park there was little open space between people, said Lt. John Lum of the Honolulu Police Department's Crime Reduction Unit and bicycle detail.

"There are more violations than we can handle," Lum said. "We can't arrest everybody." After dark, it is difficult to see who is setting off fireworks, he said. "We did cite people and gave a bunch of warnings."

Children and adults on the beach and grassy areas in the park were setting off ground displays that whizzed and smoked. But Lum explained they are legal as long as they don't go 12 feet off the ground.

As for traffic, Lum said cars were supposed to be out of the park by 10 p.m., although people could stay. Though cars were not being allowed in, traffic remained at a standstill in the park at 10 p.m. and inched along Ala Moana Boulevard in the Diamond Head direction. So people who dropped off their families and picnicking items were not able to get back in immediately for pickup.

So some waited along Ala Moana Boulevard with canopies and coolers, while others walked across the street to their cars hauling grills and kids across the street.

There were two reported injuries of people nearly severing their fingers in beach chairs.

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