VIDEO: Mayor Gears Up for Larger Crowd at Halloween in Lahaina
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwN056ds7Jg /] By Wendy Osher
With setup currently underway for the biggest Halloween event on Island, we asked Mayor Alan Arakawa to give us an update on this year’s event, which is expected to attract an estimated crowd of 30,000 revelers this year.
Organizers host a full-return of the event for the fourth consecutive year after a lull in activity between 2008 and 2010 due to a dispute over festivities in the Lahaina Historic District, and failure to secure permits for a road closure on Front Street during those years.
“Halloween hasn’t been controversial the last two times,” said Mayor Arakawa in an exclusive Maui Now interview.
“The first year when we came back into office, it was very controversial. There were no major incidents. I think most of the groups have realized that what we’re actually doing is we’re protecting a lot of the things that need to be protected. We no longer have a lot of drunks walking around. We don’t have a lot of people that are outside with beer bottles, and walking through areas where they shouldn’t be walking. So Halloween has become a much safer, much better event now,” he said.
Police say they will have about 100 officers assigned to the venue with the usual perimeter roadblocks in place to keep traffic off Front Street. The traffic section will also be conducting DUI checkpoints and roaming patrols in the Lahaina district. Police will also be closing Front Street to vehicular traffic from Baker to Prison street beginning at 3:30 this afternoon through about 11 p.m.
“With all the security that we provide; the different lighting that we provide; the different scenarios for the protection of the businesses, it’s become a much healthier and safer event and it’s been much more fun for everybody,” said Mayor Arakawa.
“Closing off the streets has worked really well. Before it was open and people were being pushed off the sidewalks into the streets with oncoming cars. That’s not happening now. Overall, the planning, which takes almost a full year to do, has been resulting in a very good business opportunity for the merchants in Lahaina. The kiddie Halloween parade is also a smashing success.”
When the event was re-introduced in 2011, it was marketed as a more family-friendly festivity, as organizers and sponsors tried to rid the event of its reputation and nickname from Halloween’s past as the “Mardi Gras of the Pacific.”
“Again, it’s a fun evening, and because of all of the security that we put there, it’s also become a safe happening. I think all the various businesses that serve alcohol have reprogrammed so that they understand what needs to be done to make sure that they’re not violating any of the rules. It’s becoming safer and safer. People are becoming more confident that they can go out and have a good time without getting accosted one way or the other. A lot of the open lewdness that used to be there before is now much better concealed for the benefit of all,” said the mayor.
Assistant Chief Victor Ramos tells Maui Now that police will be monitoring the traffic flow coming into Lahaina before the event begins, and advises motorists to be prepared for slow moving traffic before and after the event.
“For safety, we encourage people to have a “buddy system” as they peruse and enjoy the festivities,” said AC Ramos.
“I guess because Halloween is on a Friday this year, rather than Thursday last year, we can look forward to a big crowd because they’re not going to have to go back to work the next day. Saturday is a day off, so it should be really fun,” said Mayor Arakawa.