Kihei Fourth Friday, the most recent addition to Maui's monthly town parties, is off to a great start. Thanks to a well-organized group of volunteers, business owners and community members, we've created a successful event that supports the local economy and offers a fun venue with something for everyone.
Fourth Friday began with community member interest in organizing a town gathering in Kihei. We talked about different possibilities and started to put a plan together. When the county decided to discontinue Pa'ia's Friday parties, the Mayor's Office called me to discuss the potential for Fourth Fridays in Kihei.
A group of us canvassed the area and felt that Azeka Shopping Center would be the best spot. The mayor agreed and a town meeting was scheduled. Our group of participants was on board, and another series of meetings was arranged for the vendors through the Maui County Office of Economic Development. The volunteer-run Kihei Town Party Committee was formed and began the work of planning the details that would make it all happen.
The first Town Party took place in December and featured live entertainment, a large food court, and a family-friendly area for children and teens. A great crowd enjoyed music, dance, plenty of ono food choices and three beer gardens. Vendor booths and information tables lined the parking lot, and the Keiki Youth Zone offered creative activities for the younger attendees.
We were all pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the evening ran. The turnout was impressive, and everyone was cooperative and orderly. Several people talked to me about how excited they were to have a Friday party in Kihei.
Each party keeps the momentum going with more great music, dance, food and shopping. Local bands like Erin Smith and The Throwdowns, Nuff Sedd, and Gomega have brought their talent to the main stage, and new vendors join us every month. With activities like lei making, Filipino stick fighting and Chinese letter painting, adults and keiki are sharing in the unique culture of Maui. In February, the party had a Chinese New Year theme with a ribbon and silk fan performance and a lion dance by Au's Shaolin Arts Society. The youth area has featured opportunities for audience participation with a Keiki Open Mic, karaoke and a poetry slam competition.
What really makes the Kihei Fourth Friday Town Party special is the way our community has come together. Even with strong opinions and differing viewpoints, folks have been able to join up in a team effort with a common focus.
The Kihei Town Party Committee has done an excellent job managing an organized monthly event that is largely a volunteer effort. Individual community members and organizations like the Maui High Key Club, Kihei Youth Center and Lokelani Wrestling Club have helped out with setup, breakdown, cleanup and troubleshooting. Akaku: Maui Community Television films the event for broadcast.
The Maui Weekly, available at all Kihei Fourth Friday Town Parties as well as many distribution points in South Maui, devotes an entire page to the event each month, which includes a full schedule of events.
Because of the dedication and hard work of a very diverse group of people, we now have a new venue that encourages folks from all over the island to come down to South Maui and support our local businesses.
Fourth Fridays are all about collaborative planning as the event evolves. Thanks to our work with county offices, we've had success with the street closure on Pi'ikea Avenue. Traffic has been diverted from the roundabout to South Kihei Road to allow for a food vendor area and open space for walking. The committee has established self-sustainability with vendors paying for space and the funds in turn being used to pay for security, lighting, porta-potties, etc. As we move forward, more details are worked out to make improvements for the next event.
Increased lighting and additional trash cans have been added, and new options for parking are being discussed.
Currently, free parking is available at Azeka Makai on a first-come basis for those who arrive early. Azeka merchants have been patient with the process, and their sacrifices are appreciated. Paid parking is also being offered at St. Theresa Church on Lipoa Street. We're working on a shuttle service to and from the Maui Research & Technology Park golf course area with space for over 500 vehicles. An announcement will be made to let the public know once the service is in place.
I look forward to seeing you in South Maui and talking story at the next Kihei Town Party. Come out and join us on Friday, March 22.
Visit www.kiheifridays.com to find out more.