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'Today' draws fans, aloha in Waikiki

By Mike Gordon

LAST UPDATED: 12:33 p.m. HST, May 20, 2013

Photo Gallery: Today Show shoots in Waikiki

NBC's "Today" show brought its three-ring circus to Waikiki Beach in a broadcast that started at 1 a.m. so it could be seen live in its regular time slot on the East Coast.

More than 250 people were on hand when the show started, standing in the sand at the water's edge outside the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. They held colorful signs and took photos with their smartphones. Waikiki resident Paul Simon wore a rubberized horse head and held a sign that read "Hi mom."

The 38-year-old Simon didn't have an answer for the obvious question of why. "Because," he said. "I don't know. Why not?"

That wasn't the case for Melissa Kim, a 28-year-old event planner from Kailua. She arrived at 10:30 p.m. so she could get a prime spot along a plastic barrier the separated the crowd from "Today" hosts Matt Lauer, Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie and Willie Geist.

"I have the biggest crush on Matt Lauer," Kim said. "Don't tell my husband. Today's our wedding anniversary. He's at home with our son."

The broadcast was the first of a five-stop, cross-country tour that NBC calls "Today's Great American Adventure." The show's anchors finished today's show at 4 a.m. and cleared the hotel by 6 a.m. in order to catch a flight to Bozeman, Montana and Tuesday's broadcast from Yellowstone National Park. After that they travel to Chicago, Orlando, Fla., and the Jersey Shore in New Jersey.

The show was a sometimes raucous event that included Tahitian dancing from Tihati Productions, complete with drums, Jake Shimabukuro on ukulele, luau food, North Shore wave photographer Clark Little, poi pounding and a visit by Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

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