LAIE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Fans showed up for a huge celebration on Oahu's North Shore Saturday -- even though Manti Te'o was missing.
The celebration began with a parade that started in Hauula and snaked its way to Kahuku before doubling back to Laie for a community party. The event was planned before Te'o was picked by the San Diego Chargers in the NFL draft. He had to fly out to California Friday night to appear in a Saturday news conference with his new team.
"Our job was to bring the package," said Manti's father, Brian Te'o. "And the package was taken from us at the last minute, so I came empty-handed, so I hope they'll forgive me for that."
"We're just excited supporting him," said Laie resident Summer Kester, who watched the parade with her family. "It's awesome. It's a small town, and so it's fun to feel the excitement with him."
"Everybody's just like one big family, so it's just the spirit," said Hauula resident Bae Aumua. "His spirit is here, we know that. Everybody's here for him."
"I just wanted to see the festivities for a man who represented his community and come out and have a good time," said Patrick Miller.
While the turnout was big, organizers believe even more would have been there if Manti had been present. But his parents weren't surprised that the community still came.
"We knew they would because they've seen him grow up here, so they know who he is and the values he's been taught, which is consistent with all the homes here in the North Shore," said Brian Te'o.
The celebration also honored Te'o's Norte Dame teammate and Laie native Robby Toma, who missed the parade because he was also waiting to be picked in the NFL draft, without luck so far. He did make it to the party.
"When you come home, you get to relax and see what our community has done for Manti and I," he said. "It just shows the love that Hawaii has and makes you appreciate what we have here in Hawaii."
The city gave the Koolauloa community a $2,000 grant for the event. Community organizers decided to go ahead anyway since the preparations were already nearly complete.