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Laie Days: Honoring those who came before us

Community members hold a month-long celebration to strengthen bonds and remember local history, says Laie resident Verla Moore

The Laie ohana gathered for the whole month of July to celebrate the community, remember local pioneers and build bonding experiences with families, neighbors and visitors.

“It is not about the Hawaiians, the Samoans, the Tongans, [or] about the individuals. It is the culture of the gospel. That's what makes this place special,” said Verla Moore.

Moore, a lifelong resident of Laie and the president of the Laie Community Association board, explained Laie Days started being celebrated around Utah’s July 24 Pioneer Day. She explained the now month-long Laie Days celebration is about “honoring those who came before us.”

As part of the annual community tradition, there is a fireside on the first Sunday of the month, entertainment and fireworks for the 4th of July at the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Marketplace, three community sports tournaments for three weeks, a kupuna luncheon at the PCC Gateway Buffet, a summer bash at the Laie Shopping Center and finally a hukilau, the tradition of fishing at the Hukilau Beach on the last Saturday of the month.

Embracing the culture of the gospel of Jesus Christ

Community members and BYU–Hawaii students gathered to listen to speakers and musical numbers presented with the theme, “Gathering to Laie: the Next Generation,” on the evening of July 3 at the Laie Back Chapel on Lanaihuli Street.

“We need to embrace the culture of Jesus Christ as these are the things that help build our community. These are the things that our ancestors sacrificed for everything that we have here today,” said Pane Meatoga Jr. from Laie, sharing these ideas with the next generation at the fireside.

He explained his grandfather dreamed of a white house on the hill overlooking sugar canes fields while serving a mission in Western Samoa. Discussing the dream with their stake president, Meatoga said his grandparents were told the news of the construction of the Laie Hawaii Temple, and they were advised to move their family to Laie.

He told of their contribution of building BYUH and doing the hukilau, raising funds to build a new chapel after the first chapel burned down in 1941.

Another speaker at the Laie Days fireside, Kela Miller, a member of the Laie Community Association board, said, “I am forever grateful to my ancestors who love the gospel for us and love their families the most.”

“Some of the things we did was to swim at the Beauty Hole. I know some of you don't know what Beauty Hole was,” but Miller said that’s something they should learn about.

Miller shared her generation grew up playing their ukuleles or guitars and learning the songs of Laie. She also said they would go to the store to buy a pake cake and five-cent sodas before sitting down to listen to the kupunas.

After sharing her childhood experiences in Laie, she invited the next generation “to know your community, [and] to know your leaders.” She encouraged them to listen to the kupunas’ stories, experiences and insights.

Renee Cabrinha said she was born and raised in Laie. She and other people representing three generations of people in Laie, sang “Turn Your Heart to Home” written by Janice Kapp Perry and Joy Saunders Lundberg. Faith Thompson, born and raised in Laie but who now lives in Northern California, performed several pieces, and Dr. Allen Anae from Laie shared his Samoan heritage by performing a song he wrote, “Laie, My Home.”

Sports tournaments include everyone

Hundreds of community members, students and visitors ranging from the age of 6 to 69 participated in the 2022 Laie Days sports tournaments for volleyball, basketball and pickleball at the Cannon Activities Center on campus.

One of the players in the volleyball tournament, Christopher Fidow, from Waipahu and a member of Team Kim Cheee who won second place in the gold division, said he likes how the community organizes this event that brings everyone in the community together.

He said he feels blessed to be part of the event and to know the welcoming Laie community members. He added it “is truly because of your love for God. … I truly believe this is all divinely appointed.” He was invited to join in by Tia Thompson, who was on the committee of the Laie Days tournament, and Fidow said he wants to return and participate again next year.

To allow all the participants to have fun, Moore explained the Laie Days tournament Committee organized three divisions for volleyball to separate highly skilled players and create a safe and fun environment for the community.

Parewhakaarahia Mahoni, an assistant manager at Hukilau Marketplace from Laie, said the pickleball tournament was included last year during Laie Days and had 200 participants.

This year she attended the Laie Days event as a volunteer to help coordinate the pickleball tournament. She shared she loves pickleball because it is inclusive for all ages and sizes. “I feel like it’s accommodating to anyone.”

“We are blessed that BYUH donates this facility to us during our month-long celebration [for the three-week tournaments]," said Moore.

Continuing the legacy of the pioneers

“Because of the pioneers, our ancestors who came here [through their] faith, this is why Laie has prospered. It is now up to us,” said Moore. She said it’s important to know what sacrifices they made to continue their legacy.

Moore emphasized the community’s need to be worthy to live next to the House of the Lord, the Laie Hawaii Temple. She shared the following questions to ponder: “If Jesus is your neighbor, how are you going to act? Are we worthy enough to be his neighbor? Are we keeping our yards clean? Are we taking care of ourselves?”

Having these perspectives in mind, Moore said, help Laie community members do things differently.

How it became a month-long celebration

Laie resident Junior Ah You said the practice of being a “community that prays together, eats together, plays together, stays together,” has brought Laie residents together, built strong bonds and helped unify the community.

Ah You said he has been serving as a long-time member of the LCA board since he retired from being a college and professional football player in the 1980s. When he returned to Laie, he said he witnessed the community members' struggle with housing problems.

While seeking ways to mitigate or resolve the housing problem as the vice president of the LCA board, he said, “We were trying to organize ourselves to have a voice, and that's how the [month-long] Laie Days came about.”

While thinking of how they could help people to come out, be informed and educated and strengthen their input on community issues, he said, they decided they could tap into the community’s passion for socializing and having fun. He added it’s hard to get people to attend meetings.

“Our people love to socialize and have fun,” he said. “They love to play.” So he said he thought, “Let's have a Laie Day. Do it big. Do something for everybody, [from] Primary to senior citizens, for the whole month of July.”

With the vision of extending the Laie Days to a whole month, Ah You said he sought advice and received support from his dad, his wife, and his mentors Patriarch Linkee and Charles Barenaba.

Ah You said Harvey Alapa, David Hee, Elae Kapu, Sam Choi, Ray Pasi and Alfredo Cabael donated funds for Laie Days over the years.