Originally Published: July 16, 2011 10 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Decked out in a T-shirt and shorts with his sunglasses on, standing underneath a shady spot along Goodwin Street west of Whiskey Row, Prescott native Rob Hughbanks took in a sand volleyball match.
Hughbanks, one of the hundreds who attended the second annual Luau at the Old Firehouse Plaza charity event Saturday in downtown Prescott, simply relaxed and spent some quality time with his family.
His wife, Jania, sat next to him with their two young sons, waiting to compete in the gathering's single-elimination volleyball tournament on the street a few hours before the luau's party got under way.
For those in the crowd, there wasn't a better place to be on a hot summer day, temporarily leaving their troubles behind.
Jania, a one-time middle blocker at Bradshaw Mountain High School who graduated in 2002 and later became a coach, said she came out in part to promote the sport in the community.
"It's nice to have a full day of fun with people from the town and be able to support a good cause and help raise money for the firefighters," she added.
Later in the afternoon, luau participants arrived dressed in Hawaiian clothes and donated $5 apiece to Prescott Firefighters' Charities, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting disadvantaged families in this area. In return, they listened to live music and danced as the sun set on a short closed-off section of Goodwin Street between Montezuma and Granite streets.
Longtime Prescott resident Pat Kadrmas, a three-sport athlete, was one of those who supported the luau's cause. He played in a volleyball match with one of the 18 co-ed four-member teams that registered for the seven-hour tournament, which later crowned a champion.
A diverse group of players, from teenagers to adults, competed.
"I came out to have some fun in the sun and do something good for the local charities," Kadrmas said. "For me, it's great to see all these guys that I don't see very often, and get to play and have fun in the sand."
Added Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University assistant volleyball coach Jill Blasczyk, who played in the tournament for the first time Saturday, "It's nice that they've combined an opportunity to play volleyball with support of firefighter charities. This game is very social, and it's great to see it out in the middle of the street."
Tournament director Eric Costanios said more teams registered for this year's competition than for the inaugural run of 2010 because word is getting out about it. Organizers actually had to turn away some athletes because the bracket was full.
"We've got a lot of local people, and we did have a couple players coming up from Phoenix," he said. "The tournament's open to anyone that can play."
Matt Anderson, a co-owner of the Firehouse Kitchen restaurant downtown that helps sponsor the luau, said luau organizers hoped to generate as much as $10,000 for Prescott Firefighters' Charities.
Kristi Gagnon, chairwoman of the charity group, said all of the event's proceeds that were donated Saturday will be given directly to local residents in need of assistance.
"It's really cool," she said. "We love having this down here."
Aaron Meisheid, another co-owner of the Firehouse Kitchen, said he's pleased with the direction the luau is heading.
"We want it to grow," he said. "We've already seen a larger response than last year. I hope people look forward to doing this every summer."
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