The annual Luau, put on by the Hawai`i-Pacific Islanders Club (HPIC), may have taken an army and significant planning to put together, but felt as though it took place in a backyard filled with friends and family.
“To me, it was just a lot of fun to be surrounded by amazing people, generous volunteers, and an interactive audience,” Ruben Yamada, President of HPIC and in charge of the Luau, said.
The event began with an enormous buffet of delicious Hawaiian food that included macaroni salad, sticky rice, and pork. Friends and families, including grandparents and little ones, sat at their tables visible enjoying themselves as they got up for seconds and thirds.
The happy, lighthearted atmosphere could be felt throughout the gym, as the audience finished their food and the performances began. The HPIC began by dedicating a song to Christopher Gormley, a former HPIC member who passed away recently, and there was a sense of community and familial closeness.
There were many unique dances that followed, both hula and Tahitian, all equally entertaining. Some were solely girls or solely boys, and some were mixed. Perhaps the most entertaining dance of all was when the dancers called up volunteers to learn the dance. Most of which had zero experience, and it showed from the laughter in the audience.
Yamada began planning the event a year in advance, auditioning dancers, getting decorations, volunteers, and rehearsing the dances. Everyone, however, was there to help prepare for the Luau on Saturday.
“The experience is what defines luau. The decorations set the atmosphere, the volunteers set the tone, the food fills the bellies, and the dances entertain the crowd,” Megan Jackson, GU senior and HPIC member, said.
For many, HPIC was their family before Gonzaga was. “I joined the club because HPIC has an annual Freshman BBQ in Hawaii and they were my first group of friends before moving to Spokane and a group of people I felt myself around,” Jackson said.
Yamada’s favorite part about the Luau is how many people participate in the program without knowing anything about Pacific Islander culture. “I have seen many people who are just curious come out for lu`au during their freshman year, fall in love with the dancing and the music, and continue to come back each year to perform,” he said.
As it was Jackson’s last Luau at GU, Saturday held a special place in her heart, she said, and was her favorite of all four years.
“Luau is an experience for one night that makes many of the Hawaii kids nostalgic, but also gives us a chance to bring our two worlds together and show Gonzaga the culture we grew up in,” Jackson said.
By Anna Clausen