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LOGAN — In Utah, we have a lot in common with our neighboring states, but one state we don't have a lot in common with is Hawaii. We're aren't exactly close to the ocean, and there aren't a lot of surfers out on the Great Salt Lake. But one man is trying to bring a piece of Aloha to the Wasatch Mountains.
Making Logan — a city of 48,000 people, 3,000 miles from Hawaii — a gathering place for the Utah Ukulele Festival seems a little out of tune.
"Yeah, it's weird," David Manoa, one of the festival's organizers, said. "It doesn't seem to fit, but it works."
Manoa grew up in California, but his dad called Hawaii home — a place the family visited every chance they got.
"We'd go to Hawaii every couple of years," he said. "We're lucky, he had family, and so he'd be like, 'OK, we're all going to Hawaii. We'll just save our money.'"
Those trips in the sun set the stage for Manoa's life. So when a friend approached him about creating a ukulele festival in Utah, in the most unlikely of places, he jumped.
"I said sure, why not?" Manoa said.
A spur-of-the-moment decision, but one with roots running all the way back to those times he and his dad spent on the islands.
"My dad actually played ukulele," Manoa said. "I remember as a kid always asking him, 'Well, how do you play that?' You know, just being a little kid, and he'd let me strum on it."
He bonded with his father over their shared heritage until one day changed Manoa's life forever.
I know that my dad would've been really excited to see that we've done this up here. Proud to have us bring a bit of Aloha, a bit of Hawaiian spirit, here to Logan.
"When I was working in California, we had gone to look for some tools for my work," Manoa said. "He actually had a heart attack in the car while he was driving. By the time we got to the hospital, he was gone."
But Manoa says his dad lives on through the festival and through what he calls the "Aloha spirit," bringing together everyone as part of a family.
"One thing that this is kind of reminding me of is to don't lose that spirit that my dad had brought to music," Manoa said. "To enjoy music, to enjoy playing ukulele."
This ukulele Manoa plays is the same one his father used to let him strum.
"I know that my dad would've been really excited to see that we've done this up here," Manoa said. "Proud to have us bring a bit of Aloha, a bit of Hawaiian spirit, here to Logan."