Lights from the stage in the BYU–Hawaii administation parking lot lit up smiling children’s faces as they were perched upon shoulders enjoying the fireknife dance performance, music from High Risk and BET and a dance with DJ Creighton Uale. Community members of all ages danced and laughed together as they celebrated Laie Days 2021 as a time of unity on July 2.
Laie Days is a way “to celebrate the history of Laie and why it’s a special place,” said Laie community member Kevin Schlag. He said they’ve had a variety of activities throughout the years, such as dances, parades, firesides, hukilaus and essay contests.
Kela Miller, from Laie, said attending Laie Days brought back a lot of memories from years past. She said the event was different this year from the past because Laie Days was cancelled last year due to the pandemic. “Everybody was dying to be together.” She said even people came home from the mainland to be part of the event.
Laie days beginnings
Junior Ah You, from Laie, said he has been involved with Laie Days since its beginning in the 1980s. He said the event was originally a way to gather community support. “We had some issues in the community. We needed to bring the community together.”
He said when they would hold meetings to address the problems, attendance was low. They decided to have a big activity to spread the word, Ah You explained. “I thought that was the best way to get the message out about the needs of the community.”
For example, when the sewer treatment plant was not working properly, he said not only were certain health risks being posed, but the Church was also being sued and receiving negative publicity.
Ah You said community members needed to help the Church by testifying at city hall about what was really going on with the sewer treatment plant. “[BYU–Hawaii] couldn’t do it without the community,” he said, emphasizing how the community had the opportunity to show what the people really wanted and needed.
A labor of light
There was also the problem of gangs, which were big in Los Angeles at the time and spreading to Laie and the surrounding areas. Ah You said there was no place for the children to go at night, so there was a lot of fights, graffiti and roaming the streets. He said there was a park, but the park did not have any lights.
“We had to find a way to get lights at the park, so [the children] can stay there instead of roaming the streets.” However, he said the city would not help them put lights in because the park belonged to the Church.
Ah You said Lucky Fonoimoana, the president of the Laie Community Association at the time, “had a vision” for Laie. He said he brought leaders from Salt Lake City to Ah You’s home. “There was so much we needed to do for Laie,” he added.
Ah You said he told the leaders, “If you really care for the youth in this community, you need to put up lights at the park.”
As a result, the Church provided the materials for the lights on the condition the community would provide the labor. However, Ah You said the cheapest contractor they could find would cost around $20,000.
“The Laie Community Association couldn’t afford it,” he explained. “Nobody had the money to pay for a contractor… [As] always in Laie, the Lord opens the doors and finds a way.”
He said Sione Pasi and Alfredo Cadael agreed to put the lights in Laie park for free. Pasi and Cadael knew the lights needed to be put in “to save a lot of the youth. They told me they would come do it for free after work and on weekends. I just had to feed them,” said Ah You.
Community members helped put the lights posts in. Because the Laie Community Association didn’t have money to pay for someone to dig the holes, the Laie boys dug the deep holes for the light posts by hand.
Unity in Laie
He said Laie Days traditionally served the purpose of rallying the community together to get the message out about how problems such as these could be solved with their help. Today, Laie Days is still about rallying the community together, he added. “A community who prays, works, plays and eats together, stays together. We need to be unified in our effort to get things done we need in our community.
“Laie is a very special place. There are so many prophetic blessings … specifically for Laie.” He added how he believes whoever serves in the community or at the schools were placed there by the Lord “to make sure whatever is good for Laie is brought forth.”
Ah You emphasized how Laie Days wouldn’t be Laie Days unless it is for all members of the community, including children, teenagers, adults and the elderly. He said the event is a month long so they can include everybody.
Ah You said he wanted to thank the Laie Days sponsors who made the event possible. “They are so willing to help because they love this community. They are so willing to give.” He said it is rewarding for the sponsors to come to the event and see how many people are gathered there. “That’s what these events do. They bring people together.”