Las Vegas Sun

July 25, 2014

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Aloha spirit found in Las Vegas

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Sun file photo

Akira Nonaka dances the hula at the 2008 Prince Jonah Kuhio Ho'olaule'a Pacific Islands Festival at the Henderson Events Plaza. Nonaka is a member of the Hula Huio Hihao dance group.

Las Vegas, long nicknamed “the ninth Hawaiian Island,” will be overflowing with the culture today as the University of Hawaii takes on UNLV in the Rebels’ football home opener. Hawaiians will be playing against Hawaiians, and islanders visiting this weekend as well as transplanted Hawaiians who have lived here for years may well be conflicted in whom to root for — the hometown Rebels or the almost-hometown Warriors. But it’s not like we only have today to embrace the island spirit. Las Vegas celebrates all things Hawaiian all year long. Whether you’re a local or visitor, here’s where you can find the aloha:

    • Pacific Islands Festival
      Photo by Justin M. Bowen

      Las Vegas Hawaiian Civic Club

      Established in 1989, the Las Vegas Hawaiian Civic Club strives to preserve its members’ cultural heritage and promote the Hawaiian culture and presence in Las Vegas. The nonprofit organization helps with financial assistance, scholarships and educational projects for all people, but with primary emphasis on people of Hawaiian ancestry; engages in civic, economic, social, health and moral welfare issues, and preserves the traditions, mele (songs), and native language of Hawaii. To become a member or find out about upcoming events, visit lvhcc.org.

    • California Hotel
      Photo by Sam Morris/Las Vegas Sun

      California hotel

      Located in downtown Las Vegas near Fremont Street, the California was built to pay tribute to the 31st state but has become an unofficial tribute to the 50th. The property is Hawaiian-themed catering to guests from Hawaii. Aloha Specialties restaurant on the second floor is known for some of the best Hawaiian food in town and serves traditional teriyaki plates and noodle dishes such as Chicken Tou Saimin.

    • Pacific Islands Festival
      Photo by Justin M. Bowen

      Hawaii’s Aloha2Go.com

      Looking for Hawaiian apparel, island jewelry or a paradise decal for your car? Check out aloha2go.com, a local and Hawaii online store. The warehouse for this website is at 3909 W. Sahara Ave. Although it has most of the merchandise in stock, specialty items such as real flower or money leis are shipped from Hawaii.

    • Island Flavor

      The restaurant is a favorite among local Hawaiians, in part because the owners and employees are from Hawaii. Located in the southwest valley, the restaurant opened two years ago, featuring genuine Hawaiian meals, fresh and made to order. Diners frequently share entrees because of the “Big Island” portions. Among them: kalua pig, chicken katsu, oxtail soup and poki.

    • Pacific Islands Festival
      Photo by Jackie Valley

      Prince Jonah Ho’olaule’a Pacific Islands Festival

      Last weekend, the annual Pacific Islands festival celebrated its 21st anniversary. Sponsored by the Las Vegas Hawaiian Civic Club, the event raises money for college scholarships. The festival features food, music and booths dedicated to teaching the Hawaiian language and how to make various types of leis. Throughout the years, it has grown from a dozen vendors to more than 100, including many who make the trip from Hawaii.

    • Pacific Islands Festival
      Photo by Mona Shield Payne/Special to the Sun

      Snow Ono Shave Ice

      Need to quench your thirst during the hot weather months or simply want to enjoy a Hawaiian shave ice — then this food truck is for you. Snow Ono Shave Ice travels to different areas in the valley and “Da schedule” is on their website to make it easy to track their location. Served in four sizes, from a child’s small to a large bowl, they offer dozens of flavor syrup toppings and specialty add-ons such as azuki beans, mochi bites, sour spray or a snow cap, which is sweetened condensed milk on top.

    • International Bikini Team Aloha State Finals
      Photo by Leila Navidi

      Pure Aloha

      Pure Aloha has been celebrated in the valley for the past 10 years. There are two events annually, a concert series in the spring and a festival in the fall. The fall festival next month at the Silverton will feature dozens of island craft merchandise booths, authentic food vendors, amusement rides and performances by students from local hula studios. The concert series earlier this year featured R&B and reggae performers J. Boog, Fiji, Bonafide and Kapena.

    • Riley Wallace
      Photo by Melissa Arseniuk/Las Vegas Sun

      Riley Wallace

      Wallace is the former basketball coach at the University of Hawaii who lives in Summerlin. During his 20 seasons at Hawaii, Wallace led his teams to 334 victories, the most in the school’s history, including three appearances in the NCAA basketball tournament and six appearances in the National Invitation Tournament. After his retirement in 2007, Boyd Gaming hired him as an executive host for its downtown casino properties. He has been seen cheering at UNLV basketball games supporting his nephew, Kendall Wallace, who is a guard on the team.

    • Aloha Kitchen

      Maria Liza Ochiai, a graduate at UNLV’s hotel administration program, founded Aloha Kitchen in 1998 and has since expanded it to four locations including a bar and gaming property at 2605 Decatur Blvd. Boasting “the longest happy hour in town” and an “onolicious” menu, the Hawaiian fare includes appetizers such as manapua, seaweed salad and poke and house specials such as the Hawaiian plate of kalua pig and lau lau.

    • Pacific Islands Festival
      Photo by Mona Shield Payne/Special to the Sun

      Pipeline2Paradise

      Pipeline2Paradise.com may be streaming audio from its offices in Las Vegas, but it’s Hawaiian music through and through. The station plays traditional and classic contemporary Hawaiian music, urban island reggae, slack key guitar music (Ki ho’alu), island gospel music and island-oriented comedy. The station is the first Hawaiian radio station listed in the iTunes Radio Network under the “World” music category.

    • Liberty Football
      Photo by Leila Navidi

      Island Warriors Youth Football at Liberty High

      Seventy-five percent of the players in the program, most of whom will end up playing at Liberty High School, are of Hawaiian and Polynesian descent. Practices are a chance for families — parents, siblings and other relatives — to meet at Liberty for a night of barbecuing and socializing. The players are taught the Haka — a dance performed before the game — and versed on the importance of football in life. Sun Sports Editor Ray Brewer notes, “Spend one night at Liberty during a football practice and you’d swear you were on the islands.”

    • Hawaiian Marketplace
      Photo by Ethan Miller/Las Vegas Sun

      Hawaiian Marketplace

      Modeled after the International Marketplace in Honolulu, the Strip front outdoor shopping center near Polo Towers features island-style shopping. The 80,000-square-foot Hawaiian Marketplace is made up of stand-alone cart vendors surrounding nine core stores that offer a variety of island-themed clothing, jewelry, swim wear, gifts and souvenirs. Visitors can also get temporary tattoos or get their hair braided.

    • Ohana Hawaiian BBQ

      Serving up Hawaiian-style barbecue, Ohana has four locations scattered in the southern valley. Among the authentic Hawaiian offerings: loco moco, BBQ short ribs, hamburger steak and beef curry, along with seafood and chicken plates. Other goodies on the menu include saimin noodles served with hot broth and lunch specials such as Spam, eggs and rice.

      ABC Stores

      Advertised as “The Store With Aloha,” ABC stores are on every major Hawaiian island and have eight locations in Las Vegas. Owned by Hawaiian natives Sidney and Minnie Kosasa, ABC stores carry groceries, fine wines and spirits, drugs and cosmetics, gifts, souvenirs and island apparel. In Hawaii, no retail outlet sells more macadamia nuts. This week’s website promotion: a free University of Hawaii Lunch Bag Cooler with a $50 purchase. Go Warriors! (No, wait! Go Rebels!)

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    1. I'm surprised you missed The Little Grass Shack, a Hawaiian music radio show that has been broadcasting on 91.5 FM for about a decade. In fact, Paul, who runs pipeline2paradise, was a host on LGS for several years. LGS is the only broadcast radio Hawaiian music show in the area.