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Hulas & Hope at Hawaii Balls


Barack Obama enjoying his native Hawaii last summer. But which Hawaiian party will he enjoy next week? (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Is it possible to have too much fun? Next week, this town will be awhirl with possibly a record number of inaugural parties -- and some partygoers don't know where to turn.

For fans of Barack Obama's original home state, the week offers an embarrassment of riches, starting with an Aloha Inaugural Ball at the Marriott Wardman Park on Sunday. And with much fanfare, the local Hawaii State Society announced last fall it would throw its first-ever inaugural ball, a $200-ticket affair at the Mandarin Oriental the night of Jan. 20. It sold out three days after the election. Tickets were soon being scalped for more than $1,000.

An unspoken part of the event's allure: The hope that the new president might stop by.

But last week, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced its lineup of 10 "official" balls, i.e., the ones the Obamas are guaranteed to attend. One of them: A "Home States" ball at the convention center targeted to Illinoisans and Hawaiians -- meaning it's unlikely the Obamas will also go to the Mandarin.

Koli Banik, a World Bank staffer with tickets to the Mandarin and a chance to buy passes to an official ball, is agonizing over which to pick. "People are going to be conflicted," she said. Jon Yoshimura, communications director for Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), predicts a lot of crosstown migration. "People are planning to go to both balls," he said -- leaving the convention center after Obama's cameo to make it to the Mandarin, where "it's going to be a lot more, quote, Hawaiian."

Hawaii State Society President Sarah Ulis has no fears of an empty room. "All the buzz in Hawaii is about our ball," she said. "We've got leis, we've got palm trees, we have a waterfall." Also: hula dancing, open bar, a dress code that allows black tie and flip-flops. "We don't want to say it's the best -- but it's an ideal representation of Hawaii."


By The Reliable Source  |  January 12, 2009; 1:03 AM ET
Categories:  Parties  
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