PAIA - Once again Paia was bustling with ghouls, goblins and Halloween revelers who packed the north shore town Sunday night.
Unlike Lahaina, which has seen a downturn in revelers three years in a row - ever since Front Street has not been closed and public street events such as live music and costume contests have been canceled - Paia merchants said they continue to see a steady stream in businesses and crowds on Halloween.
"Last night was definitely slamming," said Evan Fredette, a kitchen manager at Flatbread Co. in Paia.
He said the restaurant was packed for the whole night and at one point there was a line outside the door.
Although he wasn't working the entire night, he did hear from co-workers that it was a lot busier Sunday than on previous Halloweens.
"It was pretty busy in town," said Fredette, a Paia resident, who had time to take in some of the festivities.
He added that at one point it was raining hard in Paia but it didn't seem to scare away all the revelers.
"That didn't seem to slow anybody down," Fredette said.
"It was a hit. It was a big hit," said Daniel Sullivan, owner of Indigo Paia, which sells rugs, home furnishing and jewelry.
Sullivan, a past president of the Paia Merchants Association for three years, said he and his co-workers dressed up and passed out candy to children. Other merchants did the same.
At Cafe Des Amis, cook George Foster said business was up around 35 percent, much busier than it usually is on a Sunday night.
Police estimated there were 1,500 to 1,200 people in Paia town Sunday night, although some merchants thought they saw much bigger crowds.
But police and merchants agreed it was hard to find a parking spot, with cars parking along Baldwin Avenue beyond the post office and also lining up along Hana Highway to Baldwin Beach Park.
In Lahaina town, parking was reportedly easier to come by Sunday than in years past. Police estimated the crowd stood around 8,000, much smaller than last year.
Crowds have been diminishing in Lahaina since Native Hawaiian and kupuna groups successfully petitioned the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission in 2007 to cancel event organizer LahainaTown Action Committee's permits for not only the street closure but also stages for the street fair with costume contests and live music. Critics complained about the skimpy costumes and, at times, out-of-control behavior. They said such antics didn't belong in a place that was once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Sullivan said he organized merchant events for Halloween in Paia. Activities included passing out candy to children.
"For the businesses, it's not a question of how much money you make that night," he said. "We want to stay connected to the community. We don't want to become a tourist town. We want people to know it's a local town."
"It's not so much a big party for adults like Front Street," he added.
But Sullivan said it is a plus if the festivities translate into an upswing for businesses on Halloween.
He added that there was some advertising of the activities in some print media but people learned about the activities mainly by "word of mouth."
Fredette said that, as the night wore on, the party became more adult oriented, with more bar service at Flatbread Co.
He estimated that around 9:30 p.m. there were still nearly 1,000 people milling about town.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.