JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Thirteen-year-old Dallas Tuumalo smiled while catching a pass from his father, Mose, as friend Jeremy Dela Cruz, 14, chased him yesterday during tailgating activities prior to the University of Hawaii football season opener at Aloha Stadium.
Tailgating, Island Style
Opening day for college football arrives with fans gathering to chat, eat and show their support
Spicy tuna, nori and rice -- not the typical recipe for football tailgating cuisine. But season openers aren't just typical days for Keola Taniguchi and friends.
More chances to tailgate
Upcoming home games at Aloha Stadium
» Sept. 22 vs. Charleston Southern
» Oct. 6 vs. Utah State
» Oct. 27 vs. New Mexico State
» Nov. 10 vs. Fresno State
» Nov. 23 vs. Boise State
» Dec. 1 vs. University of Washington
That's why instead of settling for tossing steaks on a grill or bringing buckets of chicken, they had a chef with a full sushi bar serving about a dozen families in the Aloha Stadium parking lot.
"There's New Year's, Christmas, Thanksgiving, there's the Super Bowl," he said. "And there's the season opener."
The families will have themes for each tailgate party they hold at the home games. On Sept. 20 against Charleston Southern, Mexican food will be on the menu.
"We just kinda had to step up this year," he said of the sushi bar. "You won't see this anywhere else in the world but Hawaii. Maybe in Japan, but I think we can do it better than them."
Taniguchi said it's important to show support any way they can, since University of Hawaii football is the most sports excitement the state sees.
"This is what we got, and we gotta celebrate it," Taniguchi said. "It's true island style."
Taniguchi's cousin plays on the defensive line for Boise State, who will battle UH the day after Thanksgiving. The theme of that game is a Hawaiian luau. Ohana from Molokai also will fly in.
"I'll be for UH," Taniguchi said. "But the cousin's gotta do the family proud too."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kaneohe resident Debbie McNicoll, middle, garnished her sushi as Alissa Taniguchi, right, of Waipahu, decided on what item she wanted from sushi chef Wayne Mato of Yatai Sushi during their tailgate party.
Most of the parking stalls at the stadium filled up with tailgaters a little more than two hours after the first gates opened at 1:30 p.m. Warrior flags flew while live music, tossed footballs and barbecue smoke filled the air.
Besides the usual confusion on where the entrances are, Aloha Stadium Deputy Administrator Lois Manin said the parking and tailgating went smoothly.
Yesterday was the first day of a new parking plan, which included a free tailgate party with entertainment and air-conditioned tents for people who use the shuttle and park in alternate lots. The lower Halawa lot also opened early for other tailgaters.
"Opening the main gates an hour earlier helped move about 400 cars off the road, which alleviated the traffic," she said. "We had some minor hiccups that we usually have on game day, like traffic flow around the stadium, but I think overall it was a pretty positive experience."
In the lower Halawa lot, 28-year-old Tyler Turashige felt torn. He's a 1997 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado.
The Hawaii native considered wearing his UNC Bears shirt, but he didn't want the whole stadium against him. His friends were giving him enough grief.
"I bleed green," Turashige said. "But of course there's a part of me that is still going for UNC. Somebody has to represent Northern Colorado. It's a great state, and they have a great team."
He said he has been tailgating at UH games since he was in high school with his family.
"Anywhere you go it's a tradition, but especially in Hawaii," he said. "Everybody has a busy schedule, but you mention barbecue, tailgate and football, everybody gets together."
Tailgating also was a way for Mose Tuumalo Jr. and his 13-year-old son to bond. The boy attends Saint Louis School and is playing for the football team.
"It's a new school, new team, new coach. He got the itch last year when I started bringing him," Tuumalo said.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kealani Villalobos, 3, got prepped for some cheering by her mom, Kristin, yesterday at the game. Kealani has been coming to UH games with her mom since she was 2 weeks old.
Tuumalo started attending UH games and tailgating last year.
"You can't beat tailgating here in the hot sun," he said. "We don't have a pro team, but we got the Warriors to look forward to. And look around, we're all for one team, and it's a tradition we should uphold."
Walter Harada, 62, said tailgating is a decades-long tradition for his group of friends.
"Now that most of us are retired, we don't see each other like we used to. At least once a year we get together for the season opener," he said.
The UH alumnus said he has rarely missed a chance to tailgate with his friends since the first stadium game against Texas A&I University 32 years ago.
"I'll keep on coming until I cannot walk," he said.