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Mauians star at ‘Iolani Palace

By Staff | Dec 16, 2010

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz came to the Lahainaluna High School Gym for “Maui Island’s Celebration of the Inauguration” on Saturday. The new governor (pictured surrounded by school boarders) thanked the community for their support and pledged that he will continue to work for the Neighbor Islands. He said that as governor, he supports Lahainaluna High School and its Boarding Department. Photo by Art Fillazar.

HONOLULU — Inauguration Day for Hawaii’s seventh elected governor — held on the grounds of the flag-bedecked ‘Iolani Palace and blessed with azure sky and warm sunshine — was more than a special day for new Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D).

It was a special day for Mauians as well, with the governor keeping a pledge to pay more attention to the Neighbor Islands.

Following the official inauguration on Dec. 7, the new governor broke new ground Saturday by holding a second ceremonial inaugural event at Lahainaluna High School, returning to the site where he promised last summer to support the school’s long-running boarding program.

To plan the ‘Iolani Palace ceremony, Abercrombie picked as event Chair Karey Oura Kapoi, who was his Maui campaign coordinator. She worked all year organizing campaign events while still doing her day job at Island Soul Entertainment

For an emcee, Kapoi chose Maui attorney Tony Takitani, a key advisor to Abercrombie’s campaign. He cried out “Hallelujah” to celebrate after a choir sang the “Hallelujah Chorus” near the ceremony’s close.

At Saturday’s celebration at Lahainaluna High School, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz pledged to work side-by-side with the people of Hawaii. He expressed his excitement to be on Maui and especially at the historic LHS campus. Photo by Art Fillazar.

To sing the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the inauguration committee brought in Lahaina-born Willie K. Kahaialii was even asked, impromptu, to play a few tunes when the ceremony got ahead of schedule. The swearing-in had to wait until noon.

The master guitar and ukulele player responded by singing “One for the Troops,” a song on his new CD, whose uplifting message brought some in the audience to tears.

In an unusual inaugural moment, Willie K. even proclaimed, “I know it sounds good!” between notes as he strummed.

At the soon-be-to-governor’s request, he then sang an Italian opera song — a new addition in recent years to his broad repertoire.

Last but not the least of the Mauians to perform a central role was falsetto singing icon and Kupuna Uncle Richard Ho’opi’i, who sang “Hawaii Pono’i,” the beloved official state song.

Neil Abercrombie (center), the first elected governor to hold inauguration celebrations on the Neighbor Islands, gets in the spirit by inviting County Councilman Mike Victorino to join him in hula dancing on Saturday in Lahaina. Photo by Norm Bezane.

The quartet of Mauians in a crowd of thousands on the palace lawn was joined by a number of current and newly elected Maui state legislators, County Council members and other officials, including Mayor-elect Alan Arakawa. Representatives of various Maui businesses and non-profits filled out the local contingent.

The new governor, building on his campaign theme of a “New Day in Hawaii,” urged those who will work to meet the state’s challenges “to make it happen.”

New Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz added that “the election is over,” stating, “Let’s declare a cease fire,” end personality squabbles and pull together to solve problems.

The Mauians, like the rest of the crowd, then joined huge lines to fill their plates with kalua pig and other traditional dishes at a giant luau with dance and song.