9,000 Attend 1st Ever Made in Maui County Festival
By Wendy Osher
More than 9,000 people attended the first ever Made in Maui County Festival held at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, despite steady rain over the Central Maui area throughout the day.
Event organizers say the line prior to opening stretched from the MACC entrance to the street, with more than 2,000 people walking through the gates within the first hour-and-a-half.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Teena Rasmussen, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development in a press release statement. “We’re so grateful for support of the community, our sponsors, our vendors, volunteers and the general public.”
According to Rasmussen, a post-event survey will be taken and a decision on how to move forward will follow. Based on the “resounding success of this year’s event, a festival for 2015 is almost a sure bet,” she said.
The inaugural event featured locally made products from more than 130 vendors based in Maui County, and was modeled after the Made in Hawaiʻi Festival on Oʻahu, which attracts an estimated 35,000 attendees annually.
Vendors were assigned upon meeting the definition of “Made in Hawaiʻi” in terms of “compatibility, desirability, uniqueness of product and on a first-come, first-served basis,” with a limited number of vendor slots available. In order to qualify for inclusion in the festival, products had to have at least 51%, value-added in Hawaiʻi
Vendors responded well to the event, saying they negotiated new sales and met new customers.
Event organizers spoke with several participants, vendors and attendees and documented the following comments:
- Kerwin Iwahori, self-employed Wailuku resident: “This is good for Maui. It’s great for both businesses and our people. Overall there were no surprises, but I really didn’t know there were these many local products out there.”
- Steve and Vicki Pillar of Moku Pua (producer of natural body care & fragrance items at the Maui Tropical Plantation: negotiated five new wholesale accounts in one day. Vicki Pillar said she’s also excited about the potential of offering her line at a new venue that sees 500 people on a daily basis. “This is huge for us,” Pillar said as she drafted five new wholesale accounts on the pre-festival invitation-only event on Friday. “We’re exploding. We’re getting a lot of exposure and this can only mean better business.”
- Jennifer Lawrence, artist and owner of Jennifer’s Gourds in Wailea: “This is gives me an opportunity to meet the public. I would like to reach more, and at an event like this one, you just never know.”
- Lyndon Dela Cruz, tattoo artist and owner and operator of Lanakila Designs: “Coming from Molokaʻi, to see people come out in the rain, it’s terrific. I like talking to people.”
- Leila and Eileen Comeaux of Hāna Herb & Flowers: said she was surprised at the number of retailers who were interested not only in carrying her products, but in taking orders for her wood work to use to display items in a storefront or a business. “I’m excited about it because I love to build too. I’m building my own home and people are interested in wood and handmade items.”