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Story & images by Vicki Andersen

Lahaina has always been a party town.

In the 1700s, it was the playground of choice for Hawaii's kings and aristocracy. Although ruling from a base on the island of Hawaii, Lahaina was the favorite get-away home of King Kamehameha the Great. In the early 1800s he moved the royal capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii to Lahaina and as with any good monarchy, the feasting and celebrations continued.

When the whalers arrived in 1819, they brought their bawdy pastimes with them. A half-dozen years later the do-gooder missionaries arrived and began their battle to rid the town of the seafaring rowdies. By the mid-19th century, up to 400 whaling ships at a time could be counted riding at anchor off Lahaina's shores. As many as 1,500 sailors at once descended on the town… it's a wonder the missionaries found the time or energy to convert the native populace!

The capital eventually relocated to Honolulu, the whalers suffered the decline of their industry, and the missionaries returned to inflicting as much damage as they could on the Hawaiian culture. In order to accommodate the visitors who continued to arrive from the mainland, the first resort on Maui opened its doors in 1946. Thirteen years later, Hawaii's first master-planned resort was constructed in Kaanapali, just four miles north of Lahaina. This kept the historic capital front and center.



The Hawaiians continued their sacred traditions, and the visitors added their merrymaking. In 1990 the town of Lahaina inaugurated the "Legend of Halloween," which has become the largest fête on Maui. Residents, folks from neighboring islands, and thousands of visitors from the North American mainland and other countries congregate each October to observe All Hallows Eve. The last few years have drawn 20,000-30,000 revelers, nearly as many folks as visited all the Hawaiian Islands in an entire year in the late 1940s.



Halloween in Lahaina kicks off with an afternoon children's parade down Front Street. This long stretch of roadway follows the waterfront, making it the perfect location to throw a big party. Numerous second-story restaurants and bars along Front Street offer the ideal place from which to watch the multitude swarming through the streets.


As the evening wears on, long lines can form for entry into the these popular establishments. No worries getting thirsty if you are wearing your own case of beer. I noticed this traveling Pumpkin Patch sporting prized beads around their necks… or would that be around their "stems"?As at the New Orleans Mardis Gras, observers toss beads to reward dazzling or bizarre garb.

Outfits range from simple masks to outlandish and elaborate get-ups, store-bought attire to handmade masterpieces that may have been under construction for the past year. There are individual costumes and couples costumes and group costumes, sometimes matching, sometimes playing out a theme or scenario: think "Last Supper" or "101 Dalmatians".



Even a simple T-shirt can provoke a second glance. These stylishly dressed Maids had me wondering if the girls will be letting the guys choose the theme next year.



Party Animal that he can be, Hubby set out to see how many pretty girls he could get his picture taken with. Everyone is so good natured, they cheerfully consent to having their pictures taken or indulging a middle-age man's fantasies.



With 80 members of law enforcement backed up by about 80 volunteers on the scene, problems are few and far between. Troubles usually stem from underage drinking, yet this year the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission denied permits for most of the outdoor activities that have been a tradition for the last 18 years. No food and beverage booths nor live music stages under the Banyan Tree. No Halloween Costume Contest that used to award a $1,000 grand prize.

Lahaina is a State and National Historic Landmark, and the Commission felt the annual gathering doesn't exactly enhanced the town's cultural heritage. They did give a thumbs up to the children's costume parade. Because you can't stop the procession of tens of thousands of masked and costumed people looking to have a good time, the police indicated they will likely continue to block traffic on Front Street for Halloween evening.

At anchor offshore will be two cruise ships with as many as 3,000 passengers waiting to tender ashore for the festivities. After all, this event has long been touted as the "Mardis Gras of the Pacific". The live entertainment and costume contests will continue, but inside restaurants and bars rather than in Banyan Tree Park.



As the evening progresses and the kiddies have been bundled off to bed, some apparel takes on a risqué touch. I'm not sure if this couple were Earthlings in costume, or Aliens who came to see what all the hullabaloo was about.

The next morning, I was reminiscing with a local about the prior evening. I described a young lady we encountered as we were tossing in the party towel and heading for home. Her costume consisted of a few purposefully placed dabs of body paint. Just paint, as far as I could tell without staring to the point of being considered a voyeur. My companion asked, "Didn't you see the guy? His outfit consisted of a bow, just one bow, very strategically located." I shook my head "no" and tried to hide my grin as my mind quickly imagined what that strategic location might have been …

Vicki Andersen may be reached at: skicat1@comcast.net.


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