President Obama's annual Hawaiian holiday begins Friday
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - President Barack Obama and his family are on their way to Honolulu.
This will be the First Family's sixth Christmas in Hawaii since he was elected president, and keeping with tradition they'll be spending it in Kailua.
His sister says she's looking forward to his arrival.
"We are so pleased that he can find community and sweetness here and spend some time in this land, in this place. This is for him a place of pleasure 'tis true, but also of family intimacy and spiritual grounding," said Maya Soetoro-Ng, before adding, "Please forgive any traffic that is increased or made more dense as a result of his arrival and know that he and the rest of the family are very thankful for this chance to find a retreat."
Preparations for the First Family are quickly being finalized. Barricades are up and the incident command center is in place.
"When they do lockdowns and things like that we ask for your patience. There will be road closures along the way during his visit," explained Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha.
Every year the Obamas have rented a few houses on Kailuana Place – creating quite the buzz in the beach side community. As one neighbor joked, it turns the otherwise quiet Kailua neighborhood into a bustling "Camp Kawika".
"It's exciting. It's really an honor to have him here, and when he's around – actually the place is super safe because we have all this security around," said Lanette Hayashi, who lives in the neighborhood where the Obamas are expected to stay again this year.
"We go through two security points and so the second one, we have to get out of our car. We have to be searched ourselves, plus our car has to be completely searched," described Madeline, who has lived on the same street where the Obama's have been renting for more than four decades.
Norman Asing has been working in the neighborhood for years, has been busy preparing for the First Family's arrival.
"One time they stopped me – they opened up my gas cap to look into the lawn mower," Asing described with a smile.
He says the heightened security is to be expected and he simply works around it.
"One time I was doing the lawn and security walked with me up and down the lawn," he recalled with a laugh.
"It's one thing that you got to put up with until he leaves and then everything goes back to normal, but other than that people are excited when he's here, you know?" Asing said.
Doug Miller says it's a hectic, but exciting time to have the President staying so close by.
He lives just outside the final security check-point and has created a system to alert the neighborhood of the Obama's comings and goings.
"When we have him facing down the road that means that he's still out -- the motorcade is out, but if he's come in and is in residence then we just turn it back facing the place that he's staying. It's our little indication of whether the President is in residence or not," described Miller, showing how he positions the little Chia Obama likeness he keeps outside his home.
During the President's stay, the canal running through the Kailuana Place neighborhood is off limits -- along with a portion of Kailua Bay starting at Kapoho Point. The security zone will be in effect for the next 16 days.
"I understand he's the President and so he needs his security, but I'd like for him to pick next year another spot. This would be really nice," said Madeline. "At first it was exciting, but now it's no longer exciting. It's maddening."
"The Presidential family is a family also – they're people, and I think they need their Holiday away from the hustle and bustle of everything," said Hayashi, who only has to go through one security checkpoint when he's in town. "I always run out when I know he's coming by with his family or any other time, so for me, no – it's not an imposition, whatsoever. It's merely just a matter of protocol that they have to go through so I don't feel bothered at all."
Employees at Island Snow, where the President likes to pop in for shave ice, say they look forward to his visit.
"For us, we just kind of cross our fingers and hope that he stops by," described Richard Whaley, who has served the President and his family the last few times he's come in.
"They [security] just kind of show up and start putting up a perimeter and checking the store and checking any cars around the area. After that and it's cleared, he comes through, stops in, gets shave ice, goes outside shakes hands and then he's on his way," Whaley explained.
Air Force One is expected to touch down at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam just after midnight, and streets will be temporarily blocked off as the motorcade makes its way through.
The First Family is scheduled to return to Washington D.C. on January 5, 2014.
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