More than 60 people gathered at the Lipoa Street site of the Kihei Charter School to hear Teena Rasmussen, director of the mayor's Office of Economic Development (OED), present an overview of logistics and other considerations for Kihei businesses to ponder if they want to initiate a fourth Friday event in their community.
The opportunity to hold the monthly celebration became available when Pa'ia Town abruptly cancelled plans for continuing their Fourth Friday Town Party, citing traffic, crime, uncollected trash from the event, increasing costs and a lack of county support.
"The Pa'ia merchants were victims of their success," Rasmussen told the assembled group, citing as one difficulty the fact that the event was located on a busy thoroughfare that created problems for pedestrian safety.
When Maui County Director of Economic Development Teena Rasmussen talked to attendees of last week’s meeting about establishing a Fourth Friday event in Kīhei, she stated that the county was “…not here to tell you where your party should be held. No decisions have been made and no starting date has been selected.”
Kihei had not been selected earlier, Rasmussen said, "Because we did not know where the town center was located."
Stressing that she and her assistants were not "here to tell you where your party should be held," Rasmussen said that no decisions had been made and no date had been set, but that no Friday parties would be held in October and November.
When Rasmussen asked for a show of hands of anyone opposed to the idea, no hands were raised.
Earlier, Mike Moran, the vice president of the Kihei Community Association (KCA), surprised the audience by raising an objection when he told Rasmussen that the KCA had not been informed, and until that that was done, he was "not ready to commit."
Moran was challenged by Rasmussen, who said the meeting had been announced in the newspaper, on the radio and on Facebook.
South Maui County Councilmember Don Couch, who helped organize the meeting, told Moran that the KCA board had been informed.
In an interview after the meeting, KCA President Jon Miller said, "The KCA enthusiastically supported the concept of a Fourth Friday in Kihei, while understanding that the details would still have to be worked out."
In addition to Couch, elected officials attending the meeting were state Sen. Roz Baker and state Rep. George Fontaine.
Rep. Fontaine asked about funding for the event. "Does the county chip in, like for off-duty police?" he asked Rasmussen. "Or do the merchants have to do this?"
Rasmussen responded that her office had initiated an overall marketing campaign for the Friday town parties conducted for the county by Gilbert & Associates, advertising, marketing and public relations.
While no funds had been previously set aside for other than the marketing campaign, this year, the OED planned to make grants of $20,000 available to Makawao and whoever takes over Pa'ia, and $10,000 for Lahaina.
Wailuku would receive no funding because they are using a grant from the Hawai'i Tourism Authority and Lahaina would get $10,000 because it already receive county funds for its Halloween party.
Rasmussen noted that the Wailuku First Friday Town Party had covered the cost of off-duty police and trash pickup by charging street vendors for locations to sell their goods, and suggested this might be one way for Kihei to offset their costs.
Suggestions from the audience about where to hold the Kihei Town Party centered on two locations. One was on Lipoa Street in the office and retail complex that is home to Fabiani's Bakery & Pizzaria and the farmer's market held on Saturdays.
The other location was at Azeka Shopping Center (mauka and makai), with South Kihei Road closed from Pi'ikea to Lipoa streets to create a pedestrian-friendly space between the two sections of the retail area.
Brianne Savage, sports and entertainment specialist with OED, reminded the audience that merchants will have to pay for road closures and costs for the first two months, as any grant is being processed and approved.
A county grant would require an organization to administer the event, and there was discussion of partnering with the Maui Chamber of Commerce or another business organization. Councilman Couch mentioned the KCA, but there was no apparent groundswell of support from the audience in response to the suggestion.
Savage also said, "It's important to remember that you have to do baby steps. Wailuku was not what it is now in the beginning. You don't have to plan now what you want in the future. Do what you can do now, and keep in mind the event will change and evolve over time."
At the end of the meeting, Rasmussen asked people to put their names on a sign-in form to receive additional information and to indicate if they wanted to be part of a working group to begin planning Kihei's Fourth Friday Town Parties.
Go to the Maui County Website (www.co.maui.hi.us), click on Office of the Mayor and then click on Office of Economic Development for more information.