Halloween on Front Street drew an estimated 15,000 people as of about 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, according to Lahaina Patrol Lt. Ricky Uedoi.
Walking among the crowd of costumed revelers, Uedoi said, the crowd looked light at the time, but he said he expected more people to show up as the night progressed.
"It seems like it's going good right now," he said. "We're optimistic and hopeful it will remain that way."
“Alien Abduction” with (from left) Melissa Bruck, Kevin Kovach and Rachel DeBoer was a big hit with the crowd at Lahaina’s Halloween celebration Wednesday evening on Front Street.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
As of the early hour, there were no arrests for open lewdness, he said, although one person was arrested for disorderly conduct before the Keiki Parade, and at around 7:10 p.m., police arrested someone for a liquor violation.
Lahaina Division Commander Capt. John Jakubczak said that early in the evening things were as quiet as they were last year when Front Street was closed to traffic and reopened to revelers after the county had denied the festivities permits for several years.
"We just want people to have a good time and just be safe," Jakubczak said. "We will be out there in force. We usually have more than 100 (officers) and a mobile command vehicle. We want people to have fun, have a good time and behave themselves and not do anything dangerous."
Around 7:30 p.m., Maui County spokesman Rod Antone also reported a crowd small enough that people could walk down Front Street "without bumping into anybody."
Antone said that if Uedoi's estimate of 15,000 were correct, then "I think we will hit the 25,000 mark by 10 o'clock."
He expected that the peak of the crowd would be on Front Street around 10 p.m.
"It's not yet the witching hour," he said, adding that 10 o'clock would be "prime time, when this place gets the most crowded."
"All in all, it's a really good event," he said. "There's a lot of families, some pretty creative costumes. . . . Everybody seems to be having a good time."
There were no major problems to report, Antone said. The county set up lights at Banyan Tree Park, but one of them fizzled out. And police had made a couple of arrests.
Other than those incidents, "everything's going really well," he said.
Antone said remarkable costumes included a man who converted a motorized shopping cart into a giant cat and someone who had dressed as an 8-foot-diameter flying saucer. A family came decked out as the Mario Brothers family, he said, adding that he had seen nothing particularly lewd in the early evening.
There was a "risque" couple dressed as Adam and Eve, but it was "nothing that broke the law," he said.
The people walking Front Street seemed to be a "mellow, fun crowd," he said.
"People are walking around, listening to music, buying food, checking out shops," Antone said.
The late afternoon was hot on Front Street, he said, but the early evening had cooled down considerably.
"It was very hot when the sun was up," he said. "I felt bad for people who decided to wear full-body costumes, like Smoky the Bear."
Antone said the shops appeared to be doing well, with a number calling in extra employees in anticipation of large crowds.
"The ice cream shops are going gangbusters," he said.
One immediate and small - but significant - sign that the Halloween crowds were returning to Front Street was that the annual Keiki Costume Parade lasted more than twice as long as it did last year, said Jerry Kunitomo, owner of Lahaina Pizza Co. (formerly BJ's Chicago Pizzeria) and a longtime Halloween Front Street celebration proponent.
"This is way better than it's been over the past few years," Kunitomo said. "It's still too early to say how it will shake out from a business standpoint. We'll see after the night's over.
"But I have nothing but kudos for the mayor and kudos to Captain Jakubczak. He and his people and the fire department and EMTs seem to have it all under control, while letting people still have a good time," he said.
"This is way better than it's been," he said. "We're on our way back, I guess."
Kunitomo noted that Lahaina's parking lots and spaces were full early. That's a big change compared to when the county was denying permits for Halloween festivities in the face of opposition from Native Hawaiian groups and a few other community leaders, he said.
Former county Cultural Resources Commission Member Ke'eaumoku Kapu, who helped lead the charge to rein in the sometimes raucous and racy Halloween festivities in town, said he chose not to protest the event this year as he and his wife, Uilani, had in the past.
"It seems to be getting bigger," said Kapu, who happened to be on Front Street on Wednesday for work. "It's a crazy night, and I'm seeing we're in some of the same old mess again."
Kapu said he felt dejected. He and his wife decided not to protest this year because they believed that the mayor forced Halloween down their throats, despite serious, ongoing and collaborative community efforts to devise an event that was controlled and respectful to historic Native Hawaiian sites, he said.
For many businesses in town, Halloween is critical in the "shoulder months" between summer and the traditional family holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as winter getaways, said Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. General Manager John McEwan.
It also can mean the difference between a business earning a profit or operating at a loss for an entire month or more, several restaurant and club owners said.
"It will take a while to get back to where it was five years ago," said Sean Corpuel, owner of Cool Cat Cafe and Captain Jack's Island Grill, which offered DJs, live music and a costume contest to packed crowds. "Last year was better than the year before, and this year looks better than last so we seem to be on a roll.
"I think this is huge for us. There are cities that pay millions of dollars to establish and fund events like this, and here we already have one that we just need to support," said Corpuel, who is a member of event co-sponsor LahainaTown Action Committee.
It's not just for tourists either. Halloween puts money in the pockets of his employees, which is recycled into the local economy, he said.
As for the costume controversies, he said, he certainly doesn't condone anything lewd but said he doesn't see much difference between people showing a bit of skin compared to wearing bathing suits everywhere.
"It's who we are," Corpuel said. "The thing is the whole town and people from all over are having fun. Halloween on Front Street got a bad name, but I think we all pulled together and did a really good job of reeling it in."
Longhi's Lahaina Restaurant Manager Tracy Kinzle said the line to get in was on the street in the early evening. The restaurant opened up its second floor for a band and was filled with diners as well, she said.
"It's going to be a great night, I think," Kinzle said.
Pioneer Inn Best Western Manager Mark Guerrera added that the 34-room hotel was booked two months in advance and had a waiting list for any cancellations. He said he also expected the inn's restaurant to continue its steady stream of customers.
The landmark Pioneer Inn is located in a prime location for the festivities, across from Banyan Tree Park where the costume contest is held, and cater-cornered from Front Street's densest concentration of bars and nightclubs.
"I think the event has a lot of positive momentum going for it, and I expect it to be even better next year," Guerrera said.