Organizers hope Lahaina 4th will get bigger, better

LAHAINA – It was the first time in several years that the LahainaTown Action Committee spearheaded the Lahaina Fourth of July fireworks show and events on Friday, but already organizers have larger plans for the future which include a longer fireworks show and a parade down Front Street.

“Lahaina is one of the top destinations to watch fireworks, so that kind of accolade deserves to have a much bigger of a show to maintain that,” said Sne Patel, president of the 26-year-old nonprofit.

The group raised about $45,000 for this year’s celebration, which

covered the cost of the 10-minute fireworks show Friday night in waters off West Maui. But already Patel has dreams of a 15-minute show with an additional barge to launch them from.

“We really wanted to go for an extra five minutes, but we got a good little extra money (now) that we can put toward next year and try to fulfill that goal,” he said.

It is the first year back for the group as lead planner, coordinator and fundraiser for the event. The organization stepped away in 2009 after about nine years of hosting the event. The Maui Chamber of Commerce and a few other organizations had overseen the event the past five years before the LahainaTown Action committee resumed its leadership role in February.

Despite its brief hiatus, the group was back strong and there was no shortage of police officers, entertainment and portable toilets for Friday’s event, Patel said.

“Everybody will be able to poop,” he joked Friday afternoon.

Patel figures he needs about $60,000 to extend the fireworks show to 15 minutes and another $15,000 to launch from two barges. He said that a show lasting any longer would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Unless we get a big corporate sponsor, I think it’s a little unrealistic,” he said. “It’s all baby steps right now, so the 15 minutes is the first step.”

Patel’s “broader vision” includes daytime events, such as a marching band and parade, as well as more activities similar to the entertainment that is hosted on the lawn outside the Lahaina Public Library. Performances by slack key guitarist George Kahumoku Jr. and Elvis impersonator Darren Lee of Maui Theatre’s “Burn’n Love” were among the free entertainment near the library.

“We want to grow this event and make it an all-day thing, not just night,” Patel said.

Residents and visitors alike, welcomed a longer show and more activities for children and families.

“We love it,” said Traci Mitchell of Campbell, Calif. “It seems like it’s getting more and more popular than past years.”

Mitchell, who was with seven friends and family members, has visited the island annually for the past eight years. She said that her family members, including two daughters, Tayley and Tauren, look forward to the fireworks, food and Local Boys Shave Ice on Front Street.

Mitchell and other family members suggested an addition of more food options such as food trucks and activities for children.

“The bigger the better,” she said.

Rick Momsen, general manager at Lahaina Printsellers, also supported the larger show, adding that more residents may be encouraged to visit Front Street.

Like Halloween, Momsen said, the Fourth of July event increases awareness and foot traffic through the store.

He said it still is a “crap shoot” on whether the store will make more sales, but welcomes more activities that could attract more tourists and locals.

“It would be nice to create an all-day, fun atmosphere where we can bring Front Street back as a place that locals want to visit,” he said.

Makawao resident Law-rence Kauhaahaa, his wife, Kim, and their three children made the trip to Front Street. They called the event “family friendly.”

Kauhaahaa, who is a retired Maui Police Department patrol officer, has worked the Lahaina Fourth of July event for six or seven years.

But on Friday he was able to enjoy the event with his family and celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife.

“It’s so nice for him to be retired and have fun at these things,” Kim Kauhaahaa said. “It would be nice if this were bigger because it’s family friendly and people go through a lot to come down here.”

Patel said that he is looking for additional support from local businesses and the community to deliver the bigger event.

“It’s one of those things that not just Lahaina people go to,” he said. “We get people from Kihei, Kahului, even Upcountry, coming down.

“It’s the only fireworks show on the island, so I want to do it as big as possible.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at