First family’s Hawaiian Christmas vacation underway with park visit, golf

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama watches his shot on the 18th hole during a round of golf at Mid-Pacific Country Club during his family vacation on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, in Kailua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The first family’s Christmas vacation is well underway here in Hawaii, and on Sunday morning, the president, the first lady and friends visited Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens in Kaneohe.

Park employees tell us they had short notice before the Obamas’ visit, but nonetheless they were happy to be part of his last vacation as President of the United States.

It’s not every day you have the Secret Service waiting outside your work place, but that’s exactly what recreation specialist Olive Vanselow found on Sunday.

“We had a group at our front gate ready to look at our facilities, so we showed them around, and we were informed that the president might be coming for about a hour walk in the gardens,” she said.

And, sure enough, around 10 a.m., the presidential motorcade drove into the gardens.

“I was fortunate I was able to be at the front steps when he and and the first lady arrived,” said Vanselow, “and I had the opportunity to shake both of their hands.”

We’re told the Obamas (without daughters Sasha and Malia) and their friends toured the gardens and the lake during the visit.

“It was sort of drizzly and rainy, so they were anxious to get on their exercise walk,” Vanselow said.

We spoke with some park visitors, and while no one was able to snap a picture of the Obamas in person, Rafael and Tany Hood did see the motorcade as it was leaving.

“We just kinda did the shaka to them and they were nice enough to stop on the side of the road so we could pass by. … It was nice to see he came to Kahului, our neighborhood.”

A visiting Kimberly Garnes was disappointed she had just missed them. “Ahh, I wish I could’ve been here earlier!,” she said. When asked what she thinks she would’ve have done if she did see the Obamas, she simply stated “probably fainted.”

With the first family using their familiar Kailua rental at their annual base, the president kicked off the vacation Saturday by playing golf at the Klipper Golf Club at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

President Obama was part of a group that included longtime friend and classmate Bobby Titcomb; Joe Paulsen, his principal travel aide; Michael Brush, deputy assistant to the president; and Luke Rosa, senior associate director and trip manager.

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