For those wondering if Halloween in Lahaina is happening this year, the answer is: yes and no.
Yes, in the sense that there will be a Keiki parade, during which the street will be closed to traffic, and after that an unknown number of costumed revelers will congregate on Front Street. No, in the sense that nobody pulled a permit, and the county isn’t stepping in to fill the void.
That means cars will be driving through and there won’t be any unified organization to handle things like portable toilets, crowd control, etc. I spoke to Mahina Martin, the county’s public information officer, who said there will be a police presence, but that no special efforts have been or will be made to “publicize a non-event.” She called the 2008 incarnation—when the Cultural Resources Commission made a fuss and the event was scaled back (see Maui Time contributor Jessica Armstrong’s September 2008 feature “Halloween Haters”)—a “transitional year,” and acknowledged that this year will likely be more of the same.
Asked about the potential loss of visitors who came for what was once billed as the “Mardi Gras of the Pacific,” Martin said “any event that brings in thousands of [people] warrants our attention,” and added that if in the future an organization wants to take the reins, the county is willing to help. But, she added, it’ll mean balancing “economic needs with historical preservation.”
So: no permit was issued, the economy is in the tank, some people have raised concerns about cultural insensitivity (aka lots of half-naked chicks). The county, clearly, has plenty of excuses. But this fence-straddling isn’t a solution. There used to be a big, popular event; now, the organizational backbone of that event has eroded for various reasons.
And yet… people will still show up, and merchants still count on the revenue. This is a moment when leadership is needed, and, as is too often the case, when leadership appears to be lacking…