Lahaina Festivities Return: Halloween is “Back on Front”

September 15, 2011, 8:30 PM HST · Updated September 16, 3:28 PM
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By Wendy Osher

***Maui Now file footage from 2007 Halloween.

Halloween festivities are set to return to Front Street in Lahaina this year, but not all are celebrating.

The event has drawn criticism from some including vocal opposition from the group Na Kupuna O Maui over the years. Opponents have raised concerns over past incidents involving alcohol, lewd behavior, inappropriate costumes, and lack of cultural significance at a historic site.

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“We’re not very happy,” said Patty Nishiyama, a leader with Na Kupuna O Maui.

“Do we go to Washingon D.C., and have a Mardi Gras of the Pacific up there? I don’t think so. This is a National Historic Site,” said Nishiyama who referenced the cultural significance of the area and surrounding sites including Moku’ula.

Halloween in Lahaina, mauinow.com file photo.

“It’s about a history that goes back to our ali’i (chiefs),” said Nishiyama of the respect and spiritual significance of the site.

She criticized the abundance of racy costumes seen in past years saying the event, “teaches our children how to dress like hookers.”

But, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa called the return of the full festivities, a “safe, fun, and family-friendly” event.

Arakawa said it’s been a desire of his administration to bring back the event, which has been toned down since 2007 because of lack of permits to close Front Street into the evening.

“Our residents and merchants have asked for it, and my administration has worked hard with multiple community groups, organizations, and government agencies to bring this event back,” said Arakawa.

To ensure pedestrian safety, Mayor Arakawa said the County of Maui has obtained the permits necessary to close down Front Street for Halloween between 3:30 p.m. and midnight on Monday, October 31. The closure will extend from Baker Street to Prison Street, according to county officials.

Nishiyama questioned why the event was allowed to proceed without the input of the County Cultural Resources Commission (CRC).

“All these years for Halloween they have been going before the CRC; now all of a sudden they find that they don’t have to? Why do we have a Cultural Resources Commission if he’s going to go over the their authority,” she said.

Attempts to reach members of the CRC for their comment were unsuccessful at the time of this posting.

Nishiyama said the approach sets a bad precedent for future requests that are made before the commission. “That means every Tom, Dick and Harry, and even developers will not have to go before the County Cultural Resources Commission for review.”

Mayor Arakawa maintains the event has many positives including the economic boost for many of the merchants, and the island as a whole.

“We need to encourage these kinds of high-profile events in order to stimulate our economy,” said Mayor Arakawa. “In these times of slow to no growth, we have to be aggressive at creating and promoting activities that will bring business to our towns,” he said.

The slogan for this year’s event is “Halloween is Back on Front.”

Scheduled events will include the Keiki Parade, keiki ghost stories, face painting, costume contest and live music at Banyan Tree Park and Campbell Park.

There will also be official “Back on Front” Halloween merchandise for sale.

To help ease parking and transportation concerns the county will be running additional bus routes to and from Lahaina on Halloween. The county is also asking local restaurants and bars to serve non-alcoholic beverages free of charge for designated drivers.

As an additional safety precaution, county officials said additional lighting and restrooms will be provided throughout Front Street.

Halloween in Lahaina events are co-sponsored by the County of Maui and the Lahaina Town Action Committee (LAC).

While the events are set to proceed, members of the group Na Kupuna O Maui said they for one will continue to voice their concerns.

“We’re not going to sit back and let this happen,” said Nishiyama.

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