This past Saturday evening, the Felix Event Center (FEC) was packed with APU students and families attending one of APU’s biggest events of the year, the Pacific Islander Organization’s (PIO) Lu’au. The one-night event functions as a demonstration of Islander culture through a narration and series of dances executed through PIO and participating APU students.

The event featured a dinner and performance, both of which were completely organized by the PIO and APU students of all class standings.

Doors to the event opened at 5 p.m., and dinner attendees were welcomed with leis and ushered to their tables. Friends, family and APU staff and students attended the hour-long dinner served by student volunteers.

On the floor of the FEC, tables decorated with flowers filled the room. Buffet stations lined the back of the room, where an array of different foods were served.

“I was totally wowed by every little detail in the show,” Jess Paschen, a junior Christian ministries major, said. “It was clear to me that so much time and effort was put into making every second of the lu’au great!”

The food service was a particularly enjoyable experience, especially for Daniel Groff, a sophomore applied exercise science major, who considers Lu’au one of his favorite APU events.

“The people I was working with and for were really nice,” Groff said. “Getting to serve and interact with those in line was a lot of fun.”

Student volunteers had the opportunity to sit at the back of the room and watch the show after the dinner portion of the evening came to an end.

“I also really enjoyed getting to see my friends on stage having a good time and do their best performances,” Groff said. “I was really proud of all of them.”

This year’s Lu’au theme was “Vessels in Christ.” The show featured a story-like performance with Christian ministry and family values at the core.

This theme held true for Lu’au performer and sophomore psychology major Joanna Young.

“I think it definitely helped that we were constantly reminded that we were dancing for Jesus and not necessarily for ourselves or for the people in the audience,” Young said. “My favorite part of participating in Lu’au was getting to see the progress we all made in learning our dances and watching it all come together beautifully after all the hours of work we put into it.”

Dancers and performers spent countless hours rehearsing the Lu’au for the duration of the spring semester. Rehearsals were held once a week and sometimes multiple times a week leading up to the event.

“Lu’au has definitely reminded me of how proud I am to be of an islander culture,” sophomore communications major Wisdom Mira said. “My favorite part about Lu’au was the family atmosphere among everyone involved. Not everyone knew each other at first, but by the end of Lu’au, after all the long hour of practice and rehearsal, everyone felt so close.”

PIO advisor Denise Gleason has been assisting students in providing APU with a remarkable Lu’au experience for 16 years. In her show-closing speech, PIO president Amanda Mahoni called Gleason a “second-mom” for PIO and APU student participants alike.

Lu’au performer and sophomore international business major Justus League described the extraordinary experience.

“My favorite part was the hype and support the guys gave each other through the performance,” League said. “A bunch of manly men dancing for God, what could have gone wrong? It was extremely rewarding for all the hard work put in. It was my first time participating and definitely won’t be my last.”

Lu’au performers gathered on stage after the performance to show gratitude for their advisor and for all leadership involved in the preparation. They offered special thanks to the PIO president and coordinators, leadership staff members and senior-standing participants.

“My favorite part of participating is seeing the lu’au come together because at the beginning of the semester, it is just a vision someone had,” sophomore accounting major Bailey Hagino said. “As we continued through the eight weeks, the performance stands to come to life and being a part of that is something special that can’t be put into words.”

Gleason completed the show by expressing her love for her “kids,” as she called APU Lu’au students during her closing remarks. She closed in prayer and thanked audience members for their attendance of Lu’au 2017.