Lahaina's all set for this year's big Halloween celebration, but is there a deeper move to shut it down?
October 19, 2006
For the last couple weeks vicious rumors have swirled through my
email, saying Halloween in Lahaina was cancelled or was about to be
cancelled. Later I began hearing from people that there were going to
be serious cutbacks and new rules: no sexy costumes, no entertainment
and/or no adults in the big parade.
Naturally, I was skeptical. Halloween has been an institution in
Lahaina for many years. It's the largest Oct. 31 block party in the
state, with 20,000 to 30,000 people in annual attendance. But on Oct.
12 the buzz really got going after The Maui News ran a front-page story reporting a "hitch" in Halloween but offering only vague details.
Yet for all the concern and drama created by this news, it looks
like there really is no big threat to Halloween this year. According to
Sergeant Ricky Uedoi of Maui Police Department (MPD), this year's rules
of conduct are exactly the same as last year's.
"Same rules apply," Sergeant Uedoi said. "Nothing perverted, no
alcohol, no weapons, no replica swords. Dancing is fine. People do
their little skits and such and then they move on down the street."
A press release recently sent out by the LahainaTown Action
Committee (LAC)—the Westside merchant group responsible for working
with the County to get event permits—reports that the Keiki Parade
sponsored by the Soroptomists will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Papalaua
Street, with Front Street closing at 3 p.m. Maui Tacos is also
sponsoring the costume contest with a $1000 prize on the main stage
under the Banyan Tree.
So what was this "hitch" mentioned in The Maui News?
According to Sergeant Uedoi, the Lahaina Town Action Committee's new
staff may have been a factor. "The permit process with the Cultural
Resources Commission is complex," he said. "They might have needed to
submit something earlier."
Karee Carlucci, who took over as LAC executive director in January,
had a completely different reason. "Repeated play of video footage from
years past on Akaku caught the eye of a reverend," she said, though she
didn't name the reverend. "And some families believing the video
footage to be what the Halloween event is all about. This caused some
protest to the permits."
And according to Don Couch, Deputy Planning Director at the County's
Department of Planning, there was "concern from Native Hawaiians that
the event is too risque."
All these reasons may have affected LahainaTown Action Committee's
request for permits for the Halloween event. Permits need to be filed
and approved with the Planning Department because the event takes place
in Lahaina's historic district. It's the responsibility of the Maui
County Cultural Resource Commission to review various events and
developments to make sure they observe local cultural significance.
"Departments in the County were questioning why this event was in a
cultural place," said Carlucci. "They were seeing it as a barhopping
event. But the Maui Police Department came out as the event's
Indeed, Sergeant Uedoi actually wrote a letter to the County
supporting the event. "The thing is it [the event] is going to happen
whether LAC gets the permits or not," Uedoi said. "With MPD and LAC
working together we make it safest for everybody. Our main thing is the
safety. There is the assumption that there is always nudity, always
drugs. Those people try to sneak it but they do get arrested."
Despite careful planning for safety by LahainaTown Action Committee
and the Maui Police Department for the past 17 years, the County did
ultimately insist on some changes to Halloween.
"It was nothing specific, but we are asked to avoid a 'Carnivale' or
a 'Mardi Gras' element or atmosphere," Carlucci said. In previous years
the LAC had billed the LahainaTown Halloween celebration as the "Mardi
Gras of the Pacific," but Carlucci said that wouldn't happen this year.
As a result, Carlucci cancelled appearances by the marimba band
Mapenzi, the Brazilian band Banda Dende, a belly dance troupe and has
excluded Samba Maui from the parade. All these artists and musicians
were understandably disappointed, and the whole thing contained a
bitter irony. In the concern over lewd behavior, the County has turned
on these professional performers and artists who suddenly didn't seem
to fit the bill of approved historic district performers for Halloween.
Couch also mentioned a concern over a commemorative T-shirt from a
couple years back. LahainaTown Action Committee generates funds for the
event by designing a collectable T-shirt that sells out every year.
"We listened to the concern," said Couch. "It had a headless
horseman with a Hawaiian physique, with a cape, holding a pineapple for
its head. There are two main aspects of the cultural sensitivity of the
area. There is Lahaina as the old Hawaiian capital, and there is the
whaling history. We want to make sure everyone is sensitive."
This year's official LAC T-shirt features the Bride of Frankenstein and classic movie lore.
Ironically, many of the local church leaders I contacted for this
story said they saw no need to get rid of Lahaina's Halloween
celebration. "I have a personal problem with some of the costumes being
sexist," Waiola Church's Kahu Donald Schmidt said. "But the church uses
the event as a fundraiser. We have a food booth and we sell parking.
Churches that have a problem with Halloween are being petty. They have
no idea what they are talking about."
Pastor Brad Hall of Calvary Chapel agreed. "Halloween accentuates a
lifestyle that I do not condone, but I don't stand in protest against
the event," he said. "Because of its Pagan origin we don't participate,
but for the sake of the kids we offer some alternatives."
The college town of Chico, California stands as a warning for
Lahaina. Through the years they saw their Halloween celebration grow to
include more than 20,000 people, but some residents didn't like it. In
2002 they began an extensive media campaign against the event, buying
print and television advertising that warned young people to stay out
of downtown on Halloween night. The next year, downtown Chico and the
college campus area were a literal ghost town on Halloween.
While it would take new laws to shut down Lahaina on Halloween, an
action like this could devastate the many Lahaina businesses that have
grown to depend on the money that they get from the street festival.
For some restaurants and centers this is one of their highest revenue
"It's one of our biggest nights of the year,"Hard Rock Cafe sales
and marketing manager Natalie Capitano said. "You can't even compare it
to our regular evenings. The event is fun and creative and we don't
have any problems at all."
As expected, the calls to the County Planning Department on
Halloween have initiated a review of the whole event. Next March or
April, the CRC will hold a hearing on it. It's been 10 years since the
Commission took a look at Lahaina's Halloween.
But even if the CRC review comes up with new rules for the event or
asks for a toned-down celebration, it will be nearly impossible to stop
it. "One thing we know, it would be difficult to shut it down," Couch
One key reason is that if the Planning Department does not approve
the usual Halloween permits, the usual 80 police officers that patrol
the event—pulled from all parts of the island—would dwindle down to
just the five that work the Lahaina beat. Five officers for 20 to 30
thousand revelers translates into complete anarchy, the police say,
which they add would be far worse than the alleged lewdness and
inappropriate behavior that spurred the initial complaints. MTW
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