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Merchants pitch ideas for Halloween in Lahaina

By Staff | Nov 12, 2009

Lahainaluna High School celebrated its 2009 Homecoming last Friday night at War Memorial Stadium. Some 5,000 LHS alumni and students filled the stands for the program and football games featuring the Lunas and Baldwin Bears. In the early junior varsity contest, LHS shut out the Bears 28-0 to finish 7-1 and claim their seventh Maui Interscholastic League championship in the last eight years (above). In the varsity nightcap, the Lunas (6-3) raced to 28-14 victory over Baldwin to secure a share of the overall MIL title. The Lunas now advance to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association State Division II Playoffs versus the Aiea Na Alii on Oahu on Nov. 20. The Lunas’ win was their first over the Bears since the 2004 championship year. Photo by Walter Chihara.

LAHAINA — Realizing it will take a community effort, merchants want Halloween in 2010 to be a successful, big time event in Lahaina Town.

“We can step up to this challenge,” said Jill Holley of the Hard Rock Cafe during a LahainaTown Action Committee (LAC) Halloween recap meeting held Friday morning at the Pioneer Inn.

LAC President Joan McKelvey called this year’s celebration “a wake-up call.”

After years of crowds exceeding 20,000 people, attendance at Lahaina’s event was down sharply and area hotels had empty rooms for the first time since the 1990s.

Faced with concerns by residents over the growing event and charged with protecting Lahaina’s Historic Districts, the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission in 2008 denied LAC a permit to close Front Street to motorists, coordinate food and craft booths, bring in port-a-potties and provide live music on multiple stages on Fright Night.

Amid a change in management and significant debt, LAC did not apply for a Halloween permit this year.

With Lahaina’s event losing steam the last two years, Waikiki, Kona, Paia, Kihei and other areas are organizing celebrations to attract people and benefit businesses.

Asking for input, McKelvey said, “How can we get back to where we were?”

Dr. George Lavenson said opening Front Street to cars after the Rotary/Soroptimist International of West Maui keiki parade is a health issue. After four hours of exhaust fumes, he said his eyes were tearing.

“It’s wrong to have cars with that mass of people,” he said.

McKelvey said the street should be closed entirely. Why open it after the parade when there are children running around?

“It’s a huge accident waiting to happen,” she commented.

If monitoring several events is a burden on police, Becky Lennon of the Pioneer Inn suggested that volunteers help manage Lahaina’s Halloween event and road closures, similar to the Maui Marathon.

There is competition now, she argued, and Halloween in Lahaina won’t be as big in the future.

Lennon said Lahaina should pull together as a community and be creative in staging events to lure people into town and support merchants on an ongoing basis, not just for one night.

Holley said the community must roll up its sleeves and work hard to organize a great event. She suggested that Halloween raise money for a good cause, such as breast cancer research.

Merchants must also step up, get involved and pitch ideas, Holley said — don’t assume that the crowds will show up or that your neighbor will plan the event for you.

Toni Johnson of the Lahaina Inn said Fright Night in Lahaina needs to “come back with a bang” with food booths, entertainment and the keiki parade at 4:30 p.m.

The celebration should be advertised far in advance, Johnson said, and Lahaina’s business community should be there and support Halloween.

Police want to distance children from adults coming to Lahaina to party, so the keiki parade started at 3:30 p.m. this year.

Parade organizer Ruth McKay said police first suggested 10 a.m. and noon as starting times, then agreed on moving the event from 4:30 to 3:30 p.m. for the permit to close Front Street.

McKelvey said some parents could not get home from work in time to dress their kids. Meeting participants added that closing Front Street earlier impacts businesses, and it’s cooler for keiki in costumes later in the day.

McKay said there were more goody bags than children after the parade, and they hope to begin the popular event at 4:30 p.m. next year.

Donna Soares of The Wharf Cinema Center presented McKay with a $1,000 donation from the center, raised from its Haunted House.   

She said, “Halloween has been good for this town.” There are enough people to go around for all of the celebrations, Soares said.

Lahaina must figure out how to make it work and start planning now, she noted.

Former Mayor Alan Arakawa encouraged all businesses to participate in Halloween and make Lahaina “the place to be.”

A meeting attendee said it’s important for event organizers to support the host culture, possibly by making a donation to the Friends of Moku‘ula.

Reach out to the Hawaiian community, he suggested, and the results will be positive.

County spokeswoman Mahina Martin recommended that the community unite and apply for the 2010 Halloween permit with the Cultural Resources Commission early. McKelvey said LAC will apply for the permit within a week.

The people opposed to Halloween in Lahaina Town “have not been silent on their concerns,” Martin said.

She also suggested that LAC initiate contact with the host culture to discuss Halloween.