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Lackluster Lahainaween

Frightening facts reveal event's economics.

The Maui Weekly
October 28, 2010

Trisha Smith
Editorial Assistant

The glitz and glam of Front Street in Lahaina on Halloween night seems to have lost its allure. Many residents and visitors are once again seeking alternative Fright Night festivities rather than heading to the West Side for what was once the most exciting and prosperous parties of the year.

At "Lahainaween" in 2007—the last year the street was closed to night traffic—I found a bustling event with colorful characters, a controlled crowd, and experienced community camaraderie amidst the chaos.

Attending last year's "non-event," I saw more of a ghost town than a "Mardi Gras of the Pacific"—a result most likely due to the efforts by opposing groups such as the Cultural Resources Commission (CRC), which criticized the party as culturally insensitive and denied the permits for popular organized events for adults in 2008.

There's more to Halloween than public intoxication, risqué attire and crowds. There's the attraction of the experience, the community spirit that ensues and most importantly, the positive economic impact it provides Maui.

For many years, the LahainaTown Action Committee (LAC) advertised worldwide, bringing in new tourism dollars from around the globe. Local businesses prospered as an estimated 25,000 costumed creatures gathered to celebrate.

A recent study on visitor spending by Hawai'i Pacific University Professor Jerome Agrussa, Ph.D., and commissioned by the North Beach West Maui Benefit Fund, found that Halloween in Lahaina generated nearly $3 million in extra revenue each year for businesses.

Data was acquired from hotel, restaurant and retail workers in the Lahaina area, as well as through the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism of Hawai'i. It revealed that $2,820,230 in sales and $193,916 in taxes were generated in 2008, with $2,607,538 in sales and $169,464 in taxes generated in 2009.

The study also reported that revenue dropped significantly between 2007 and 2009, with total sales falling more than $187,000. Restaurant sales of locales surveyed plunged about 27.5 percent—a spooky reality to the hospitality employees who formerly declared the haunting holiday their "biggest money-making shift of the year."

Hopefully, groups like LAC and the new West Maui Community Association will hustle to submit permit applications earlier next year, and work with the county and groups like the CRC to address concerns. Make a plan to bring back an organized, safe and fun celebration on Front Street.

In this economy, we can't afford to be afraid of revelry or revenue.

North Beach West Maui Benefit Fund, Inc.

P O BOX 11329
LAHAINA, Hawaii 96761