Players, local fans and even folks on Hawaii Family Vacations celebrate the return of the Pro Bowl to Hawaii

Hawaii has no professional sports teams but people here LOVE sports. Every Sunday morning, crowds gather to watch football games over breakfast buffets — the time change between here and the mainland means kick-off is EARLY.

(8:30 am) It’s another beautiful mornin’ in Hawaiii Nei! This is the sunrise in Kailua Town! Jus’ gotta love it! =) @Erock808

The Pro Bowl brings the only opportunity to see professional football in person for people who live in Hawaii. Today’s game has a 7 pm EST start, which is mid-afternoon here, but fans were ready early. I’m following the fun through the tweets of Eric (E-Rock) Orinion, who also lives in Kailua.

(9:00 am) Aight, we’re about 50 people deep and we’re startin’ our 10 truck convoy to Aloha Stadium now! =) @Erock808.

Last year the game moved to Florida, so it has been two years since the last appearance of pro players in the islands. Apparently, the players missed Hawaii as much as locals missed them. News accounts this week included comments from players saying that a trip to Hawaii is their reward for the rigors of the season. One was quoted as saying that he thinks when he dies, he’ll go to Hawaii because it’s paradise.

(9:00 am) On the H-3 and we’re truck #5 in the 10 truck convoy to Aloha Stadium for the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl! =) @Erock808

The NFL has been blogging about activities this week on its website. The blogger noted the interaction with local fans:

“Ohana Day — something we missed last year in Miami — was a great way for both squads to cap off the week of practice. Throngs of fans showed up to watch their favorite players take the field for their final walk-through. And really, like pretty much every other practice this week, the workout was very lax, with many of the Pro Bowlers chit-chatting, goofing off and enjoying the lively atmosphere at the stadium.”

(9:15 am) And the traffic begins! It’s a rolling parking lot right now heading into Aloha Stadium!

(9:40 am) Welcome to Aloha Stadium! No, not really… We’re still tryin’ to get in!? LOL @Erock800

Hawaii first hosted the AFC-NFC post-season contest in 1980. The state is paying four million dollars per game to have it held here in 2011 and 2012. No decision has been made about what happens after that.

(9:44 am) Whoa!? It’s $10 for parking at the stadium today! @Erock808

Although the Pro Bowl returns to the islands this year, the scheduling change that puts it before the Super Bowl remains. That means none of the 10 Pro Bowl selections from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers is attending.

An Official NFL Pro Bowl party Saturday night at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel cost over $200 per person, but the Pro Bowl All-Star Block Party sponsored by the City and County of Honolulu along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki was free. Sports fans filled the street, both locals and mainlanders who flew in for the game. There was live entertainment, celebrities, food and dancing in the street.

Just a few blocks away in Chinatown, a parade and block party celebrated the start of the lunar new year. It was harder to avoid a party than to find one in Honolulu on Saturday.

(9:48 am) Awwrrite! Our truck convoy found some parking! Time to set up and get this tailgate party started!!! @Erock800 =)


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