RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ku'ulei Pila of Kapolei partied while the UH band played yesterday at the "Cajun-Warriors New Years Eve Bash held" at Generations Hall in New Orleans. Organizers expected 4,000 people to attend.
UH fans party hearty
They celebrate this season as 'magical'
» Warrior fans might miss team at airport
» Isle venues pull out all stops plugging in TVs for game
» Free Sugar Bowl parties
» Hawaii's belief is in the cards
NEW ORLEANS » The usual New Year's Eve firecracker haze wasn't present in the cool night air here, but it was plenty noisy when the clock struck 12 and roughly 4,000 University of Hawaii football fans greeted 2008, buoyed by hopes of a Warrior victory today in the Sugar Bowl.
They were all packed together in and around Generations Hall in the historic warehouse district for the "Cajun-Warriors New Year's Eve Bash."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mason Ferguson, 5, and her father, Matt, watched the UH band play yesterday at the "Cajun-Warriors New Year's Eve Bash" held at Generations Hall in New Orleans. Organizers expected 4,000 people to attend. Matt Ferguson was stationed in the military in Hawaii for seven years, and his wife is from Hawaii. "I've adopted UH as my school," he said.
"This was a good way to get the ohana together, comin' down to New Orleans, and to do something fun to round out their trip," said event co-organizer Don Murphy, of Murphy's Bar & Grill in Honolulu.
With admission at $125 a head, the party was a benefit for the Na Koa Football Club, as well as the New Orleans Habitat for Humanity, on behalf of the university. It featured appearances by coach June Jones and the UH band, cheerleaders and Rainbow Dancers.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Coolbone Jazz Band from New Orleans performed for Warrior fans yesterday at the party, which was co-organized by Don Murphy of Murphy's Bar & Grill.
And it was a spirited New Orleans party. A zydeco band performed, along with the Coolbone Jazz brass band in the courtyard, to an appreciative audience of UH band members. A familiar rendition of "Hawaii Five-O" swung with the verve of the Big Easy's vibe. A colorful stilt walker and juggler walked through the crowd. Fans made three long lines to buffet tables stocked with Cajun food. And the cheerleading squad helped hand out special UH-green beads to those coming into the party.
One boisterous out-of-town fan, cheering with his young daughter hoisted on his shoulders, said he adopted UH as his own. Army Lt. Col. Matt Ferguson and his family took a last-minute flight from Washington, D.C., getting game tickets through his wife's membership in the alumni association. In fact, Ferguson's first date with his future wife, Mary Inama of Kauai, was at a UH home game in the early 1990s.
"This season has been magical," he said. "It's like the (NFL New England) Patriots' perfect season. And while anyone can pooh-pooh the level of competition in (the Western Athletic Conference), for the Warriors to go undefeated in Division I football, that still means something. And in my humble opinion, Colt Brennan got robbed for not winning the Heisman Trophy."
Entertainer Henry Kapono and wife Lezlee each pushed a stroller containing their children, Kapono and Cassandra, through the crowd.
"We just got in yesterday morning," said Kapono. "This is amazing. The energy feels really positive, and the outcome should be really positive as well."
Even veteran sports announcer Don Robbs found it all a bit much. Standing by the ESPN-1420 radio location during a live broadcast, he said: "I was walking around Bourbon Street last night, and I kept muttering under my breath, 'Unbelievable.' This whole experience is unlike anything I've ever seen, and I've been to New Orleans several times.
"I've been following UH sports for 40 years, and what June has done with limited resources is little more than a miracle. To be playing in a (Bowl Championship Series) game is astonishing -- and we'd better take care of him after all of this is over."
Warrior fans might miss team at airport
Fans might have to greet the University of Hawaii football Warriors at the Manoa campus rather than at Honolulu Airport when the team returns from New Orleans tomorrow.
The team's chartered flight aboard a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767-300ER aircraft is scheduled to arrive in Honolulu at 3:35 p.m.
However, the state Department of Transportation has not made any preparations at the airport to accommodate greeting fans, said Scott Ishikawa, DOT spokesman.
The university has arranged to have buses on the tarmac to pick up the team's players, coaches, support staff and family, said Keoni Wagner, Hawaiian Airlines spokesman. Wagner said the airline will make an announcement today informing fans where they can greet the team.
There was no official word from the university yesterday.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
John and Dionne Rau sat yesterday with their son, Evan, and sleepy daughter, Kaliyah, in the middle of a miniature football field they constructed in their Royal Kunia back yard.
Isle venues pull out all stops plugging in TVs for game
Even if you couldn't make it to the Big Easy, there's no shortage of places to watch today's Allstate Sugar Bowl here at home.
Aside from the usual sports bars, a handful of locations are holding free public parties for those fans who want to watch the game with a few hundred of their closest friends.
One gathering is set for the ballrooms at Dole Ballrooms at Dole Cannery in Iwilei. As of yesterday afternoon, Creations in Catering had already reserved space for about 200 people.
Organizers were expecting about 300 people, but the space can be expanded to accommodate up to twice that number, said Charmaine Hauanio-Kuewa, special-events planner for Creations in Catering.
The party will include three 10 1/2-by-14-foot projection screens, "so it'll be excellent viewing no matter where you are in the ballroom," Hauanio-Kuewa said.
In addition to door prizes, concessionaires also will be selling the official Sugar Bowl program and T-shirts.
There is no entry fee but parking costs $3. Food and beverages will be sold at the event.
In Laie, Junior Ah You's customary New Year's Day Concert of the Stars is being replaced by the "Shugah' Bowl" community tailgate party at Laie Park on Poohaili Street.
Ah You, a Hawaii Sports Hall of Famer, encourages fans to wear Hawaii colors to come out and "join the community and the state of Hawaii in supporting our island team."
Admission is free, and the game will be viewed on one 20-by-20-foot screen and two other smaller screens, said Rowena Reid, one of the organizers. Organizers are expecting about 500 people.
"When we put out the note that (the annual concert) was canceled in lieu of this, to support the game, we've gotten a great response," Reid said.
She said door prizes such as saimin, noodles, small appliances and camping chairs will all come with a bag of sugar.
Some food is being prepared for the general population, but because it's a tailgate party, people are asked to bring their own fare, too, she said.
Viewing will begin at 6 a.m., with the Outback Bowl, which features the University of Tennessee and former Kahuku standout J.T. Mapu.
Of course, not everyone will head out to watch the game, choosing instead to watch the game at home. John and Dionne Rau of Kunia are bringing the Sugar Bowl atmosphere home, literally.
Known for their scaled-down field replicas for recent Super Bowl parties, this year John Rau has put the display up a month early, in honor of Hawaii's first trip to a Bowl Championship Series game.
"Me and my friend who helps me putting up the bleachers, we decided if Hawaii went undefeated we would make a field for them," Rau said.
Rau has been erecting stadium models for Super Bowls since 2002, and began work on the Sugar Bowl replica after Hawaii defeated Boise State on Nov. 24.
"Every minute I had outside of work has been trying to get this thing ready," Rau said.
The 32-by-16-foot field features painted end zones and bowl logos, bleachers and a new addition this year: about 600 stadium lights made from hollowed-out water bottles. He said he and his wife are expecting about 30-35 people for the game.
"It's actually not that many," Rau said, "Because it's New Year's, people have family parties, and some people went to New Orleans."
Regardless of where the party is or how many people show up, the theme is likely to be the same. "I'm just hoping for the best," said Hauanio-Kuewa. "I believe they're going to win, so I'll stand with that slogan: Believe."
Free Sugar Bowl parties
A look at two free Sugar Bowl parties being held in Honolulu:
Creations in Catering Sugar Bowl Party
When: 1:30 p.m.
Where: Dole Ballrooms at Dole Cannery
Cost: Free admission, $3 parking
Fare: Pupu platters, $20, and individual items, about $6 each
Extras: Door prizes, sales of official Sugar Bowl souvenir program and T-shirts
Reservations: 521-7101 (parties of nine or more)
Junior Ah You's Shugah Bowl Community Tailgate Party
When: 1 p.m.; viewers can arrive as early as 6 a.m. to watch the Outback Bowl
Where: Laie Park, Poohaili Street
Fare: Some chili and rice is being prepared for general population, but tailgaters are encouraged to bring their own fare.
Extras: Door prizes and activities for kids
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Joy and Stanley Ikeda of Kaimuki sort through cards that will be used in a card stunt by Hawaii fans at the Sugar Bowl.
Hawaii’s belief is in the cards
NEW ORLEANS » At today's Sugar Bowl game at the Louisiana Superdome, Mia Okinaga hopes to create "a chicken-skin moment" with the help of Hawaii fans and 2,000 green, black and white stadium cards.
Okinaga and a group of "section leaders" from Roy and Sonya Miyashiro's Regal Travel tour group will be carrying boxes of color-coded cards to Sections 320 to 325, in the UH seating area behind an end zone.
There, the cards will be taped to the seats with instructions for two card stunts that will be performed during the first timeouts of the second and fourth quarters of the game.
If everything works out, the cards will read out two words, "Hawaii" and "Believe."
Okinaga enlisted her friend Sonya Miyashiro and the Miyashiros' travel operation. "Sonya and I are longtime buddies. All of the people in the office busted their a-- to make this happen. We're gonna have fun!"
Okinaga thought up the idea of making a big sign for the Sugar Bowl on Christmas Eve, and it grew into perhaps doing a small card stunt and finally to an ambitious six-section design.
"It'll be displayed above the club-suite level. Since we have the Warrior feeling as well, why not go big?" Okinaga said.
Miyashiro's New Orleans tour group took time out from Bourbon Street Sunday night and organized the boxes of cards and instructions in a hotel meeting room.
"The idea caught on like wildfire," said section leader Ann Lim, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., whose husband, Jim, is originally from Oahu. "Mia molded her idea in such a way that it could be doable, but with a lot of effort from the fans in those seats."
Said section leader Beverly Hamada, "They worked so hard, I had to support what they're doing. I didn't want Georgia to dominate the cheering."