The island of Kauai in Hawaii is known for the good life - beachside luaus, a laid-back lifestyle and a friendly atmosphere.
Lawrence might not have Kauai's reputation as a popular tourist destination, but when the Kauai Kine came for the American Fastpitch Assn. National "B" Tournament held last week in Lawrence, the team was greeted with some island-style hospitality.
On July 17, the 14-U Phenix softball team, coached by Bill Finucane, threw a party at Centennial Park for the visitors, complete with Kansas-style barbecue, exchanges of gifts, and teenage girls getting excited for a big week of softball.
"Hawaii is known for aloha," Kine coach Mike Koerte said. "But Kansas knows aloha, too."
Aloha is a Hawaiian word loosely translated as affection or hospitality that is commonly used instead of hello or goodbye.
The Phenix team was more than a little excited about their guests' arrival.
Several Phenix players waited at the entrance to Centennial Park on Ninth Street, asking surprised drivers in the passing cars if they were from Hawaii.
When the Kine finally showed up, the Phenix girls ran to greet the team in the parking lot.
The two teams and their families proceeded to enjoy the warm summer evening by sitting together at long picnic tables, taking lots of pictures and trading stories about softball and life.
The Phenix parents were just as thrilled as their daughters with the opportunity to host the girls from Hawaii.
"I think it's a great thing to get together," said Jeff Smith, father of Phenix player Lexie Smith.
"It's a chance to show our fellowship with the people of Hawaii. Sports bring people together."
Kauai is a small island in the northwest corner of the group of islands in the Pacific Ocean that make up Hawaii.
Kine players come from all over the island, which is about 550 square miles in size, and the farthest that anyone has to travel at home is about 45 minutes, according to Joe Enrique, one of the Kine parent-coaches.
The Kine players and their families were in good spirits despite a long day of flying that lasted almost 12 hours. They had layovers in Los Angeles and Denver before finally arriving in Kansas City.
They were ready to showcase their softball skills on the mainland.
"I'm just happy to be here," Enrique said. "And I hope the girls play as well as they're capable of playing."
Phenix coach Finucane was thrilled that the event had been such a success after weeks of planning.
"When we qualified for the Nationals, we offered to be the host team," Finucane said.
"I asked some of the parents and the immediate response was yes. The parents just took it and ran with it."
Alongside the heaping portions of pulled pork and smoked turkey were sumptuous desserts the Phenix families had prepared for the occasion.
"I get to come and eat a free meal and didn't hardly have to do anything," joked Becky Harper, the president of the Phenix Board of Directors, who credited Finucane and the parents with pulling things together.
The city of Lawrence and local businesses did their part to make the Kine feel welcome.
The gift bags presented by the Phenix to their Hawaiian counterparts included free passes to the city swimming pools and gift certificates from local merchants.
Quick's Barbecue donated much of the food, and Chipotle even offered the Hawaiians a meal on the house while they were in Lawrence.
After dinner, the Phenix showed off some of their dance moves, to the delight of the Kine players, who showed the Lawrence girls some moves of their own.
Later in the month, the Kine will travel to Carlsbad, Calif., to play in another tournament.
Two other Phenix teams also hosted out-of-town teams. Randy Fyler's 16-U squad hosted a team from Maryland, and Jay Rusk's 14-U team had an event for a team from Manitoba, Canada.
As the festivities wound down, coach Finucane was already thinking about the big week of softball ahead.
"It's what we shoot for all year," Finucane said. "It would be nice to put on a good showing and represent Lawrence as best we can."