Paia 4th Friday Town Party Nixed
By Wendy Osher
The Maui Office of Economic Development announced that it will end the Paia Friday Town Parties, and open dialogue with Kihei instead.
During a Friday afternoon press conference in the Mayor’s Lounge, OED Director Teena Rasmussen said the county could not overcome the traffic and safety issues associated with the fourth Friday in Paia town party event.
County officials said there are other venues that they look forward to that are a “better fit” for the town including the Maui Makani Classic in October and the KSP Kite Surf Pro Championship at the nearby Ho’okipa in November.
The Paia Fourth Friday Town Party event was born out of the successful “First Friday” event in Wailuku Town. The County of Maui later added an event in Lahaina on the second Friday of the month, and Makawao on the third Friday. The Wailuku, Lahaina, and Makawao events are not affected by the announcement.
Rasmussen assured merchants in Makawao that initial safety issues there have been worked out through the implementation of a partial closure of Baldwin Avenue during their Third Friday event.
Merchants in Paia were notified of the decision via email on Friday afternoon. The memo stated the following:
Dear Paia Merchants,
We want to thank each and every one of you for the tremendous work, organization, and monetary support you have provided for your Friday Town Parties in Paia over the last nine months.
Your dedication and effort has been greatly appreciated.
As hard as we all worked to make the Paia Town Party a success, we could not overcome the traffic and safety issues.
We know that being able to close a road leads to a much safer and contained event; however, with Paia’s business community lining two very busy main traffic corridors, closing the roads there was never an option.
Due to this, the numerous concerns that you as merchants have raised about safety, we feel this party is just not the right fit for Paia.
Our office will be announcing at a Mayor’s Press Conference this afternoon that there will no longer be a Friday Town Party in Paia–county sponsored–and we will be looking for another venue for our Fourth Friday Town Party.
In the meantime, our Mayor’s Office of Economic Development wants to assure you that we will be supporting Paia and the North Shore with the upcoming Makani Classic Windsurfing Championship which will take place in October, and the KSP Kite Surfing championship that will take place at the end of November.
We will also continue to look for ways to promote Paia and the unique experience of shopping, dining, services and accommodations you offer to both our local residents and visitors.
The relationships we have established with you and the Paia community will serve us well as we continue this Fall season in promoting your premiere water events.
We would like to urge you to continue your efforts to form an official Paia Merchants Association. There is strength in numbers and strength in the unity of your message. Your community will need a strong voice from business as our county resources will be in higher demand than ever before.
Again, thank you for your dedication to your businesses and to your community. You are providing valuable jobs for our local people and contribute greatly to our economy. We appreciate this and acknowledge the sacrifice that you make for your businesses.
On behalf of Mayor Arakawa, best wishes on your continued success.
– The Office of Economic Development
“In light of this, we are ready to open dialogue with the Kihei business community on what a Fourth Friday in Kihei might look like,” said Rasmussen.
A meeting has been scheduled for the Kihei business community to be held at the Kihei Charter Middle School on Wednesday, September 19 at 5 p.m. to discuss the potential for a Friday Town Party in South Maui.
“This meeting will provide an opportunity for Kihei merchants to hear our office explain the purpose and the vision of the Friday Town Parties and to explore possible scenarios for Kihei to have its own signature Friday Town Party,” said Rasmussen.
The County of Maui currently provides an umbrella marketing campaign to promote the Friday Town Party events through an advertising contract with Gilbert and Associates.
“Because this overall umbrella marketing campaign puts the names of these towns in the press all of the time, Makawao merchants have told us that they have seen an increase (in foot traffic) not just on the night of the party, but throughout the entire month. It’s really putting their town on the map,” said Rasmussen.
The County OED’s Project Specialist Ipo Mossman and Sports and Entertainment Specialist Brianne Savage have also been meeting with merchants to smooth out logistics and acquire permitting for the events in the various communities involved.
Savage said mitigation measures to address safety were added each month, but “Ultimately it just kind of built to a point where there weren’t any other options–we can’t close the road,” she said. At the last Fourth Friday event, county officials said there were 11 police officers on hand who gave out a number of citations for safety violations.
“That is the number one danger there, is people walking through the cars across the street,” said Rasmussen, who noted that there is no crosswalk between the county parking lot at the entrance to Paia town, and the main Baldwin Avenue intersection where many of the businesses are located.
“At this point, it is final,” said Rasmussen of the decision to end the Paia Fourth Friday Town Party event. “The number of people coming out was tremendous, and without the road closure, the sidewalks there are very small, so it forces people out onto the roads, and that’s what creates the unsafe conditions.”
Mayor Arakawa said that if the situation improves, Paia could be reconsidered for the event. “If there’s a way to get around the challenge of the traffic–right now we can’t find it–but if we can create that, we’d most certainly be willing to go back to Paia.”
“Doesn’t that beg the question that if Kihei gets its own Fourth Friday, are they going to have a meeting (with Paia merchants) in Pu’unene and work it out?” posed videographer Chivo Ching-Johnson.
“It’s a tricky question,” said Mayor Arakawa, “but there does not have to be only one town having a celebration on a specific Friday–and it doesn’t all have to be on a Friday. This concept was to try to develop business within each one of these communities because business was fairly stagnant. Once the business in these communities pick up, then their ability to attract more business will increase as well.”
While the county has not set aside an extra fund for the Friday Town Party events Rasmussen said, “we are getting ready to give a grant to each town for the purpose of their party.” The Wailuku event is already partially funded through the Hawai’i Tourism Authority, so they won’t be getting additional funding, according to OED officials, but the funds are expected to be extended to Makawao, Lahaina and the newest Fourth Friday venue.