Maui panel votes to allow Halloween in Lahaina
The wild event had raised issues of good taste and respect for Hawaiian culture
LAHAINA » Revelers will be out in force on Front Street again this Halloween after Maui County's Cultural Resource Commission voted in favor of allowing the Lahaina event to proceed as planned.
Dissent from several native Hawaiian groups has done little to spook event organizers in the past, but ensuring that all goes well this year "puts a little bit of a fear of God into us," said Joan McKelvey, a member of the Lahaina Town Action Committee, the group tasked with organizing the event that draws an estimated 35,000 people annually.
"We're hoping everything will go as it always does -- very well -- on Halloween night," said McKelvey.
Criticism has grown in recent years that the celebration has become too wild, with some of the costumes unsuitable for young eyes.
Nani Watanabe, who joined her fellow commissioners Aug. 2 in voting 5-1 in favor of running the event as planned this year, remarked, "By approving Halloween in Lahaina, we know it's going to be safe, controlled and organized."
A confrontation following the meeting led to the arrest of two people on suspicion of harassment, said Maui police Capt. Chuck Hirata. Lahaina resident James Kiakona also was charged for allegedly punching county parks Supervisor Bob Straub.
In terms of policy, the Police Department has remained neutral on the Halloween event, with contingency plans in place to deal with the anticipated influx of cars and the costumed.
With about 80 police officers and about the same number of volunteers, McKelvey said, security will be kept tight to ensure drinking age limits are being observed and to keep the event as safe and happy as possible.
When the issue resurfaces for a full review in December, Watanabe said she could not ensure the outcome, saying, "The commission voted in favor (this time) only because it's a couple of months before the event. I think all in all we just wanted to see it tamed down a little, and taming an event of that size requires more sensitivity to the history of Lahaina, where our aliis (royalty) came and gathered."
Lahaina was a capital of the kingdom of Hawaii and home to the royal family.
Members of the Cultural Resources Commission will be monitoring this year's event to see if suggestions are followed to provide more patrols on back streets, move portable toilets away from former taro patches fronting the Lahaina Library, and move the road closure north from Shaw Street near the 505 Shops to a location away from the historic Mala ulu o lele Park.
"To place portable toilets on ground that once upon a time was the loi (taro patches) of Kamehameha would be disrespectful," said Watanabe.
Between now and the December meeting, those concerned will attempt to file a request that a special management area permit be required for the event to proceed. U'ilani Kapu, president of Kuleana Ku'Ikahi, a group that works toward perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture and protection of historic sites, said, "For an impact this huge, an SMA should be required in a National Historic District like Lahaina."
During mediation meetings in July, Kapu suggested moving the event, cutting it off at 10 p.m. and changing the way it is advertised.
McKelvey said moving the event to another location is not the answer.
"We would end up with two Halloween nights because the restaurants and bars are still going to be open, they're still going to have their costume contests and they're still going to be offering prizes."