Hawaii Offering a Belated ‘Aloha’ to Obama

Dec 23, 2011 3:38pm

President Obama bade the press corps “Aloha,” as he exited the White House briefing room today, starting his vacation a week later than planned. With the payroll-tax credit fight ended, at least for the next two months, the president is now making the 10-hour flight to his home state.

He will journey 5,000 miles to the multimillion-dollar vacation house that his family has rented on Kailua beach since he was elected in 2008.  Along that famed stretch of sand, the locals have mixed views on his visit.

While all beaches in the Rainbow state are public, the secret service has set up several tents around the home to keep onlookers away. Beachgoers were prohibited last year from walking past a designated point, which upset some who like to walk along the water.

“When he gets here, things change,” said Janet Johnson, who grew up in Hawaii and visits her father every Christmas in Kailua.

“It just really disrupts the activity, you can’t go out in the water like you normally want to. There’s certain jurisdictions that affect what you can do and how you can do it. So you’re kind of at the mercy of what the government would do while he’s here.”

The novelty of sharing the beach with the first family has worn off and she wishes they’d explore other tropical destinations. “Why not Fiji?” she asked with a laugh.

For businesses, however, a brush with the president of the United States can mean big money.

“There’ s so much more tourists and locals that come out to want to like get shave ice and just see the pictures on the wall and ask us what the experience was like,” said Mica Tom, who runs Island Snow.

Obama and his daughters often frequent the small shave ice and surf shop.  Pictures of the president enjoying his signature order of cherry, lemon lime and guava orange syrup over ice are prominently displayed.  The shop has turned his order into a regular favorite that customers can ask for by name, “The Snow-Bama.”  Tom says the secret service can be intimidating, but having him stop in is worth any hassle.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to say you’ve had the president visit town and you’ve had him come to your city and state and you’ve gotten to shake hands with him,” Tom said. “It like nothing you’ve ever experienced.”

Tom says the first lady and the first daughters have already been to the shop for the cool sweet treats, although, unlike the president, their orders vary each time.  Another bonus for the staff: the president is generous.

“He is a good tipper,” he said. “I think he left $5 last time.”

Five dollars on a $3.50 purchase? Not bad indeed.

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