Lahaina event called 'indecent'
An annual Halloween block party raises a Hawaiian group's ire
LAHAINA » The roots of the historic banyan tree in Lahaina Town are apparently not the only thing exposed on Front Street during Halloween.
A group of Hawaiians criticizing "indecent costumes" and "inappropriate behavior of participants" wants tighter controls over attire and festivities sponsored by the Lahaina Town Action Committee merchants' organization.
"Lahaina was known in whaling days as the Hellhole of the Pacific because of exactly what's happening with the Halloween Parade," remarked cultural specialist and kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. "It's not cultural, it's not Hawaiian and it's allowed to go on while Hawaiian cultural events get shoved out."
The Maui County Cultural Resources Commission is scheduled to hear criticism by Na Kupuna O Maui Aug. 2 at the West Maui Senior Center.
Patty Nishiyama said her group objects to the way the event allows participants to expose themselves.
"There are a lot of good things that the Lahaina Town Action Committee does for our community, but this one has turned into a monster," she said. "How is this going to show a good example to our children when they're watching people come out with a false penis on their costume? It's not good for their thinking and only teaches them indecent things."
Members of the Lahaina committee said the Halloween activities were already occurring when it founded the contest 17 years ago. The group, they argue, has simply helped organize it and improve safety.
"I think we should be thanking the Lahaina Town Action Committee for being willing to do this," said Donna Soares, general manager of the Wharf Cinema Center and a committee member. "You don't punish somebody for doing a good thing."
Committee member Joan McKelvey said the nonprofit stepped in to "make the event more enjoyable," and "provide some organization at a time when the observance was getting out of hand."
In addition to applying for an annual permit to close the street, the committee organizes food booths, provides port-a-potties, installs additional lighting and works with the Maui Police Department for safety and enforcement.
"If you come into Lahaina town the next morning, there are no signs of a party," said Soares. "All of Front Street is totally clean."
That's no small feat, considering that the festivities typically attract 30,000 people. Those sheer numbers raise general concerns.
"If you get a lot of people scantily clad, drinking alcohol, something bad is most likely to occur," said Richard McCarty, attorney for Na Kupuna. "And there's no reason for the community to sponsor an event where that's likely to happen."
But McKelvey disagreed, saying, "Nakedness or semi-nakedness is just about no more than what you would see any day either at the beach or on Front Street. With the enormous number of people who come, the percentage is infinitesimal of problems or arrests."
The Maui Police Department deploys upward of 80 officers to conduct patrols, with the vast majority coming from specialized and plainclothes units.
Drunken driving and disorderly conduct are the biggest problems, with as many as 20 arrests being made in some years, said police Capt. Charles Hirata, Lahaina District commander.
"It's not really that wild," said Hirata. "It's like any event where you have alcohol consumption going along with it, and a large number of people in a few block area."
Both sides met last week and were scheduled to meet again before the item surfaces for commission review Aug. 2.
McKelvey said legitimate concerns are being addressed, including adding more port-a-potties and having more volunteer security.
"There's no point in fighting or being at each other's throat with these things," she said. "The best thing is to meet and iron out the differences and see if we can come to a logical conclusion that everybody is satisfied with."