VIDEO: Maui Friday Town Parties Initiative Rolled Out
By Wendy Osher
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i39sE4jpjI4 /] After six months of planning, the County of Maui officially rolled out its new Maui Friday Town Parties initiative during a press conference on Wednesday.
The idea was born out of the successful “First Friday” event in Wailuku and spread to a “Fourth Friday” event in Paia. Now, town parties are also being added to Lahaina on the second Friday of the month, and Makawao on the third Friday.
Under the initiative, the county’s Office of Economic Development will provide an umbrella marketing campaign and assist individual towns with expertise in permit issues and organizational advice.
“I think we have come up with an idea that’s going to be completely unique. I think that we’re going to entice residents, we’re going to entice visitors to rediscover our historic towns,” said Teena Rasmussen, Director of the Office of Economic Development.
“When we get it all said and done, all of us will be that much further ahead; our communities will have that much better quality of life; and our public will be enjoying something that they don’t have right now–some place to go on Fridays and really claim this as a way to be able to celebrate the weekend,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa.
The mayor joined a host of other organizers in unveiling a new logo and website.
A soft opening of the Maui Friday Town Parties is planned in November, and a much larger advertising campaign will be launched in December.
Teena Rasmussen, Director of the Office of Economic Development:
“This has been a very big week for the Office of Economic Development, and of course our mayor’s office. We just finished bringing back a major windsurfing tournament to Maui–the Makani Classic Windsurfing Championship–where the overall champion was crowned last night (Tuesday, November 1, 2011); Also, as you know, we’ve been successful in reviving Halloween in Lahaina. After a four year absence of an organized event, there’s so many people that made this happen.
“These events that we’ve just had this last week, has just showcased what Maui does so well–and it’s what I don’t think any other island does–and that is bringing people and communities working together. We know how to work together in this community and we don’t stake out territory and say that’s mine. We work together, we bring all parties together and do it harmoniously–that’s what Maui does so well, and that’s why we’ve been so successful.
“In the office of OED, we say we can only sit on our laurels for five minutes, and then we’re on to the next event, and that’s really why we are all assembled here today.
“We wanted to roll out this new initiative: Maui Friday Town Parties. I wanted to give you a background about how this event came about. Back in the spring, Pamela Tumpap from the Maui Chamber of Commerce–she and I were having a little brainstorming session, and we were talking about ways that we could help the small business community in Maui.
“As you know, this has been a very long, very hard recession–I don’t have to tell any of the merchants that are in the room that. We were just brainstorming about ways we could assist as an Office of Economic Development.
“One of the conversations came to the success of First Friday that Yuki Lei Sugimura and all the team of merchants in Wailuku have been able to produce. It has grown and grown, and gotten better and better, and bigger and bigger.
“Pam said, what if we roll this out to the other towns on different Fridays–and that’s how the idea was born. So, we took that idea and we ran with it.
“We came and we talked to the mayor–he thought it was a terrific idea. It’s been in the works for at least six months now and we’ve had multiple meetings with the merchants and the different towns trying to kind of get their feedback and the kind of ideas and so forth.
“I think we have come up with an idea that’s going to be completely unique. I think that we’re going to entice residents, we’re going to entice visitors to rediscover our historic towns.
“The town we’re talking about are: Wailuku will retain its First Friday status–they were first, so that’s only fitting; Lahaina will get the second Friday; Makawao will be doing the third Friday; and then Paia will be doing the fourth Friday.”
“I’ll never forget what Theo Morrison said from the Lahaina Restoration Foundation–she said, you must have a vibrant and healthy economy in your towns in order to be able to afford historical preservation; because if you don’t have that, it just becomes urban blight.
“We don’t want our buildings to be decrepit and not fixed and falling down and unpainted. We want them to be fixed up, and painted and look beautiful and charming and keep that old historical nature of our towns.
“Every one of them is completely unique. Every one of them has got such a different charm and different ambiance to it, that this is not going to be redundant in any way. It’s going to be completely different every time you go to one of these towns.
“My husband and I went down to Fourth Friday in Paia town last Friday, and I was so delighted to see the shops serving wine or juice and pupus, there were artists on the street painting, there was music in the stores and outside, there were lines out of the restaurants, people walking everywhere.
“We took two hours to walk the streets of Paia. We’ve never done that before. We’ve lived here 35 years, and have never taken the time to do that with one of our small towns.
“We typically go into a town and we have one store maybe that we need to go to–maybe somebody needs to go to Mana Foods or somebody wants to run in to one of the stores in Makawao really quick–you’re in, you’re out, you’re gone, and you don’t take the time.
“But we took this opportunity to spend two hours–I bought some jewelry, we had dinner, bought some gellato–it was just a wonderful thing. We ran into a bunch of people we knew, so we got to visit on the street. That’s the kind of experience that we want people to have.
“The shop owners were so happy to have people walking in at this time of day, when they’re normally closed.
“We’re trying to create a new reason to go to our historical towns–that’s what we’re proving by doing this umbrella marketing campaign. The Office of Economic Development will be providing the umbrella marketing campaign. The contract was awarded to Gilbert & Associates–they will be handling the marketing and the public relations and the website that has been created.
“We will be providing the expertise with permit issues and some of the organizational advice–but it is up to the individual towns to plan their parties. We’ll be doing a “soft opening” for November, and then we’re going to be doing a much bigger advertising campaign for the month of December.
“We are not advocating regular road closures in any of the other towns–that’s not to say that at some point down the road, they might have a real big special event where they may want to close a portion of their road; but it’s not going to be done every month (except in Wailuku).
“Wailuku doesn’t have the critical mass of shops that the other towns have–for the other towns, we’re really saying, this is about promoting your brick and mortar business.”
Yuki Lei Sugimura, organizer First Friday in Wailuku Town:
“Thank you to Maui who has given us four years of growth and excitement in our Wailuku First Friday events.
“This First Friday, besides the help that we get from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which is huge; the other big part of it is the gifts that we get from the community. Besides attendance, we have merchants like Maui Thing–they provide the main stage acts and the sound–everything happens just kind of like magic.
“To tell you how successful we’ve gotten, we had to increase our poster size to 11″ x 17″ this last time, because now I’m getting a lot of different people telling me they want to be on our poster.”
Saedene Ota, owner Maui Thing retail shop on Market Street:
“We hope that with the success of four towns, people from Paia will come to Wailuku, Wailuku will go to Lahaina, and vice-versa.
“About four years ago, the streets weren’t closed–it was just a baby and Maui Thing didn’t have a store, so we decided to be a vendor. We did it two or three times and all I thought was, oh my God, this has huge potential.
“A few months later, I had to make a decision on whether to open a shop–it was the mall or Wailuku Town–I chose Wailuku Town for various reasons. One, obviously economics–it’s a lot more affordable; but the fact that Wailuku Town is someplace that I grew up in–it’s kind of a more of a homegrown, grass roots feel, which Maui Thing represents as well too.
“Being in a small town also comes with some sacrifices–we don’t get the mall traffic, the natural foot traffic that you get from a big mall. Merchants like us, we rely heavily on First Friday because we can’t afford the mainstream advertising.
“With the popularity of First Friday, we’ve gained huge successes at Maui Thing. We’ve had our email list growing exponentially. We’ve had visitors from Canada, from Japan, from other communities that come to our store, that never even knew that we existed; and we’ve had the opportunity to actually have fundraisers for other non-profits, to support other community events.
“We’ve had art gallery openings at our store and so we try to help other communities as well, and not to mention the bottom line.
“When it comes down to it, every First Friday our sales increase. Besides the money, it’s huge exposure, and it’s just a wonderful community event. I’m really excited about this four towns project–I can just see it exploding.
Teri Edmonds, owner of If The Shoe Fits & one of the First Friday organizers:
“I started my little shop there when the town was still on the verge of sun and blight. We had about a 50% occupancy in retail spaces.
“Yuki, who was with the Office of Economic Development at the time, during the Apana administration, brought in the street festivals.
“Every time we had a street festival, I had to double or triple my staff, we always double or tripled our revenues.
“We used to have to ask people to try and come be a vendor. Now, there’s about a hundred-person wait list.
“It’s really a great generator of revenue for all participants. I see people who have lived here 30-35 years and haven’t been to town; or they only come up to go to doctors appointments; and here they are for First Friday finally, and they’re saying wow, there’s a shoe repair, or hey, look at that.
“There’s definitely very positive results that we get from this in the future, rather than just on that evening.
“What I love about what the mayor is doing with this program is that anybody who participated in Focus Maui Nui, the results showed that they wanted to see our small towns grow up, not out, and I think that this is taking that plan to the next step, and it is so exciting.
“I keep telling people that this town was not on the map–and we are the county seat. Now, we’re on the map, and we’re all over the social media.”
Michael Baskin, owner of Paia Inn hotel:
“It’s amazing to me what Wailuku has accomplished there. I think that Paia has the same sort of ability.
“Each town is very unique, which is kind of cool. Each town is going to have their own unique thing.
“This last Friday, we had a party in our courtyard area and we had a fashion show that was conducted by the various boutiques that went pretty well, and we had a wine bar–maybe that will be our thing instead of a beer garden.
“A lot of the shops in Paia close early, and we’ve been figuring out what would be an exciting way to help them to stay open later. I think the Fourth Friday will help with that.
“The people staying in the little hotel that we have come from all over the world, and they are excited about Paia because it’s very different from Wailea and from Lahaina and from Kihei and other areas.
“The feedback that we have is they love the north shore, and they love the fact that it’s a little bit different, and a unique town.
“One of the things that we’re looking at doing is a standup paddle contest that starts at Maliko Gulch and ends at Paia with a fashion show. We’ll see.”
Mayor Alan Arakawa:
“This is one of the great pleasures of being mayor. We get to take good ideas from the community and bring them to fruition.
“When we started with the First Friday event in Wailuku a long time ago, it almost failed miserably because of the merchants weren’t willing to participate; and they weren’t willing to take advantage of using the First Fridays.
“So we’d have events, we’d have vendors come in, and all of the stores would be closed.
“Wailuku has taken it now to another level where the merchants are totally bought in. We have a huge gathering and the public looks forward to it.
“Taking this concept and –thank you very much Yuki-Lei, we’re very glad to borrow things that work and move them to other communities.
“We tried the experiment in Paia, and Paia has worked out very well. They’re realizing that their profitability margin is going through the roof.
“By moving this on, and having First Friday in Makawao and Lahaina as well, we’re hoping to be able to generate the same kind of enthusiasm.
“We have people that want to go, and want to be able to experience things–we just have to make the very best of the opportunities.
“When you throw a party, the party is only as good as the way you put it together, and how you present it. It’s an attitude, and we will make it a success with all of the businesses buying into this.
“We’re very happy to be a partner in these events, but it takes our partners that will make it really work.
“Let’s utilize what Wailuku has been able to show us, and if everybody works together, we can truly make these world class events.
“When we get it all said and done, all of us will be that much further ahead; our communities will have that much better quality of life; and our public will be enjoying something that they don’t have right now–someplace to go on Fridays and really claim this as a way to be able to celebrate the weekend.”
Mary Kukana Cajski, Art Director, Gilbert & Associates:
“The chosen concept for this logo is based upon a kind-of street art one-color stencil, spray paint, hand-done feel.
“The idea was taking it to the streets with the street art feel–making it for the people by the people.
“The stamp, as I like to call it, is made up of different elements that show right away, on a visual instant, everything you can expect at all of the town parties–that includes having the town-scape silhouette to represent the town and give a sense of place; the sense of place is reiterated with the palm trees giving it a Maui, tropical feeling.
“We have a ukulele player with musical notes alluding to giving a sense of sound, even though it’s a visual piece–you get a feel that there will be musicians and entertainment and it’s a lively event.
“The stars give it the immediate night atmosphere and feel.
“We have different colors for each town too, so that each town will still have this recognizable stamp image, but where it says Maui, it say the name of each town, and each town has its own color, chosen to represent the town.
“First Fridays is green representing the lushness of Wailuku and ‘Iao Valley that everyone loves; Second Friday in Lahaina is gold, representing the beautiful, spectacular West Maui sunsets that everyone knows, and also alludes to the historical Hawaiian past of Lahaina; Makawao is red, representing the rodeo and paniolo heritage of Makawao town; and Paia is a teal, sea-blue, representing the ocean and the surf town feel that everyone comes to love.”
Larry Gilbert, President Gilbert & Associates:
“A website will be launched soon, definitely before December 1st.”
“The website, in a nutshell, is a central hub where people from all over the world , 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, can get the information on every town party.”
“It’s a roster, basically, of what’s going to be going on in that town, on that Friday. The site also features social media including Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.”
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