Experience the magic in the culture of Hawai’i at UP’s 46th annual lū’au

A community that remains united, stronger throughout hardships

By Amelie Lavallee | April 3, 2024 5:28pm
Members of the Hawai’i Club perform at last year's lū’au. This year's lū’au will feature cultural dances, traditional food and entertainment for the UP community.
Media Credit: Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

For Liayla Pinnow, hula dancing has been a part of her culture that she's gotten to learn and share with her family. Now, as Miss Aloha of Hawai’i Club, she'll be bringing it to friends and others at the 46th annual Hawai’i Club Lū’au. 

“I’ve been hula dancing since I was three years old and now I get to share that with my friends who are also from Hawai’i but might not know how to hula,” Pinnow said.

As Miss Aloha, Pinnow prides herself in being the person that reaches out to others and is the friendly face to the club — which prompted the creation of Miss Aloha. 

Kerri Osumi painting the main banner that will be featured at the lū’au.
by Gavin Britton / The Beacon

A long-standing tradition of Hawaiin culture, a lū’au is a way to showcase the culture through cultural dances, traditional food and entertainment. Back in the 1960s, UP used to hold its lū’au on the grass. Now, in 2024, it will take place in the venue it has been held in since 1974: the Chiles Center. 

The 46th lū’au will take place April 6 with doors opening at 4 p.m., food served at 5 p.m. and the show itself commencing at 6 p.m.

Tickets for the lū’au are $14 for students, staff and faculty, $10 for children aged 3-12 and general admission is $24. 

“It’s a special feeling being able to give people a taste of what our culture is really like because even if someone were to go to Hawai’i, they're not necessarily taking in the full experience as we have from living there all our lives,” junior and Co-President of Hawai’i Club Taylor Katahira said. 

This year, the fan-favorite country store will once again make a return, selling local foods, snacks and merchandise from Hawai’i. The country store features snacks from local vendors from Washington and Portland as well as goodies shipped from parents back home — a plus amongst students seeking to get their hands on goodies that they can’t find here. They are even adding jewelry to the mix. 

The lū’au has, and continues to be, a way for UP’s Hawai’i student body to embrace the culture they love and miss while at school. Having a large number of students from the various islands of Hawai’i, the Hawai’i Club has given students a place to belong when far from home.

Photo courtesy of Liayla Pinnow.

“Coming up here for college was a really hard transition, but for me, it was things like the Hawai’i Club, going to the lū’au and making friends that helped me,” Katahira said.

Having a dedicated group of parents supporting Hawai’i Club members in planning the lū’au is instrumental to their success. 

“We have a whole parent committee back in Hawai’i that is supporting us,” Noelle Asato, lū’au co-chair of Hawai’i Club, said. “We work closely with them to make sure we have enough donations.” 

Hawai’i Club works ardently when it comes to lū’au preparations, which usually begin early in Fall semester. Along with the usual stressors of securing the venue, confirming the date and preparing food and dances, this year they face a different challenge: having to share the space with UP’s admissions team for Weekend on the Bluff — as well as the Portland Trail Blazers G League affiliate team, the Rip City Remix.

This has left the club with only a day or two to set up for the lū’au, where in the past they had access to Chiles the whole week leading up to the event. 

“There’s just a lot more logistics and a lot more coordination than we thought about,” Asato said. 

This year’s lū’au is especially significant because of its theme, Pūpūkahi i Holomua (“together we move forward”), which sheds light on the challenges brought on by the Lahaina Fires that affected the lives of many UP students from the islands

“We have a lū’au shirt this year with two lokelanis (roses) on the front and on the bottom right is the Maui island to signify we want to do as much as we can,” Katahira said “The lokelani signifies our support for them [people affected by the Lahaina Fires] and their loved ones during this time of healing and rebuilding.”

In addition to the shirts, there will be a donation box at the lū’au where people can give proceeds to the Maui Strong Fund, a fund that supports people affected in the aftermath of the devastating fires. While UP student were among the many affected by the Lahaina Fires, many others with ties to island are still recovering. Showing support for those beyond the UP community is important for the club

“Before this year, I barely went to Maui, but even that connection of knowing those are people’s loved ones hit hard,” Katahira said.

Despite the difficulties the club and club members have faced, Pinnow is hoping this event can unify the Hawaiian community on campus.

“There is a stigma that you have to be from Hawai’i to join the club, but you don’t. We grew up with the Aloha (meaning love) spirit and welcoming everyone,” Pinnow said.

For club leaders and members, the lū’au is a chance to show the dedication, hearts and souls of the culture they are proud of.

“I’d say it’s a privilege to be able to host something like this and have such a great turnout every year,” Katahira said. 

More information on the event can be found on the Hawai’i Club Instagram.

Tickets can be purchased by clicking on this link. 

Amelie Lavallee is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at lavallee25@up.edu. 

Kimberly Cortez contributed to this story. They can be reached at cortez25@up.edu. 

Editors note: An earlier version of this article was published with various errors including the misuse of “Hawai’i” and ‘Hawaiian.”