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New group, same challenges to stage Halloween in Lahaina

By Staff | Sep 30, 2010

LAHAINA — The new West Maui Community Association (WMCA) hoped to rally the community and obtain a Maui Police Department permit to close Front Street to motorists on Halloween night, but members don’t have enough time to secure county approvals and address issues with residents concerned about the celebration.

Association members met with Maui County spokeswoman Mahina Martin, county Planning Department Director Kathleen Aoki and Deputy Director Ann Cua, Ke’eaumoku Kapu of Kuleana Ku’ikahi LLC and Lahaina merchants at Longhi’s restaurant last week Wednesday.

WMCA launched on Sept. 20 and met two days later with a specific goal: “… rally the community; obtain a new permit; build bridges with those who oppose Halloween; turn it into a fund-raising event and contribute any profits to benefit Hawaiian culture on Front Street, where King Kamehameha III once lived.

“If we can make this happen then everybody wins: Hawaiian causes, the county, the merchants, workers (more tips for busy waitresses and waiters), Maui Visitors Bureau and the many fans of Lahaina and of Halloween,” noted the flyer announcing the meeting.

Interim President Ramon Madden said WMCA wants to start fresh on a Lahaina Halloween celebration, unify the community and accept new ideas on the event.

With just weeks left until Oct. 31, the new group’s priority was closing Front Street to cars on Fright Night for safety reasons.

Going door-to-door in Lahaina Town’s business community, Madden said he lined up 200 volunteers and collected about $2,000 in donations for Halloween.

He added that 400 people signed an online petition supporting Halloween on Front Street.

But West Maui Community Association soon discovered that even just to close the road on Fright Night, it faces the same challenges as LahainaTown Action Committee (LAC).

As Lahaina’s Halloween celebration exploded in size and popularity in the 1990s, LAC took over management of the event and secured approvals to close Front Street, bring in bands to perform on stages in the Historic District and offer food, art booths and a costume contest in Banyan Tree Park.

Na Kupuna O Maui and other Hawaiian organizations voiced concerns about the event in a hearing before the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission (CRC) in 2007, and because those issues were not resolved, commissioners denied LAC’s permit for Halloween in 2008.

LAC did not apply in 2009, and the group withdrew its Historic District Special Events Application for Halloween with the CRC this year, based on word from the county Planning Department that the commission won’t approve the event if the community remains divided.

West Maui Community Association Interim Vice President Jill Holley of the Hard Rock Cafe hoped the group could devise a proposal agreeable to all parties, close Front Street on Halloween night for safety reasons and market the event with respect for Lahaina’s history and cultural sites.

Holley, who worked on LahainaTown Action Committee’s permit application this year, said WMCA also wants to consult with the Hawaiian community to determine best practices for events in Lahaina and meet with the county, police and fire department to figure out terms for successful festivals in the future.

Madden, a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives, said LAC dropped the ball on the event by not resolving the issues on Halloween.

“We had no choice but to start now,” he added.

Hearing comments about WMCA’s desire to expedite a road closure, Kapu said “this conversation went south.

He wants an open process — in which everyone can offer input — to plan Halloween, not a proposal “ram-rodded through” in a short time frame.

Kapu said conversations on Halloween always focus on money, not cultural concerns, finding solutions and how to stage the celebration in a respectable fashion.

“We want to get down to the nitty gritty,” he commented.

Later in the meeting, Kapu indicated that his concerns include protecting historic and sacred sites, providing security on Front Street and back streets in Lahaina Town, marketing the event to invite people to a historic town with integrity — not a party with drinking and drugs — and making the event safe for everybody.

Hawaiian organizations should be involved in discussions on Halloween from the starting line, Kapu said.

A former member of the Cultural Resources Commission, Kapu said the proper permitting process must be followed when planning Halloween.

Noting that a community association in West Maui is long overdue, Martin explained that CRC reviews are comprehensive to address concerns. Rushing to grant approvals compromises that process.

WMCA member Kenny Hultquist asked why Maui Chamber of Commerce was able to close Front Street for Lahaina’s Fourth of July fireworks show, yet Halloween is considered offensive.

Martin said police feel Halloween is different because it’s a long, festive night. Fourth of July activities are held in a shorter time frame, and the celebration is more family oriented, she said.

According to Martin, WMCA can begin a community effort with the goal of staging a successful Halloween fete. The dialogue between all stake holders will be time-consuming, she noted.

“It takes time to build relationships,” Martin said. “Finish the conversation first,” then work on the event.

Cua said issues must be resolved before applying with the CRC. The community should “speak with one voice,” and the decision should be easy for the panel.

When asked about police coverage projected for Halloween 2010, Martin said Lahaina District officers will monitor the celebration. Officers from Lanai and Molokai will not be brought over for the event, which may draw 10,000 to 20,000 people to Lahaina.

For information on the West Maui Community Association, call Madden at 385-1649.