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Nonprofits and clubs fundraise without the fair

Groups find other ways to solicit funds with cancellation of Maui Fair

Maui Rugby players Duke Cosner (left) and Folau Finau Jr. stand by booths selling Maui Rugby T-shirts and lu pulu at a recent Maui Sunday Market event.

From making Tongan-style laulau for the Maui Sunday Market to possibly selling pasteles from a food truck, nonprofits are trying to make up for the income they’ll miss at the Maui Fair, one of their biggest fundraisers of the year.

Organizers announced last month that for a second year in a row, the fair would be canceled due to COVID-19. Despite a rise in vaccinations, they cited the possible risks associated with large crowds as well as the amount of cleaning and protocols they would have to have in place.

The cancellation once again left nonprofits without one of their largest sources of revenue. Organizers said the fair brings in an estimated 45 food vendors and about 85 commercial and nonprofit exhibits while contracting about a dozen nonprofits to provide services.

“We were disappointed, but if for the health and well-being of this community, that comes first,” said Audrey Rocha Reed, corresponding secretary for the Maui Puerto Rican Association.

She said the organization was ready to sell its food and was optimistic the fair would be back on, noting that the event is usually in October and vaccination rates would be higher.

Maui Rugby players Helmut Finau Jr. (left) and Tehani Agcaoili along with Maui Rugby parent Esa Vaka (background) sell lu pulu at a recent Maui Sunday Market event. The organization usually counts on the Maui Fair as its larger fundraiser but is one of the many groups trying to make up for the deficit since the fair has been canceled for a second time due to COVID-19. Maui Rugby photos

However, she also said the organization understands why it’s not being held.

The fair provided a “major fundraiser” for the organization’s general operations, savings and travel fund. Members are now floating the idea of having a food truck to sell their products to make up for the lost revenues of the fair, she said.

The club, which is more than four decades old, also relies on separate fundraisers for its scholarship fund, which over the years has given out thousands of dollars to Maui County students, said Rocha Reed, the scholarship chairwoman.

Those fundraisers also were halted during the pandemic, but the fund has continued to give out scholarships, she said.

Other groups have been looking for new venues to sell the food they’d typically bring to the fair. Maui Rugby is doing what it can to raise more funds and has been selling lu pulu, or corned beef luau, at the Maui Sunday Market along with Maui Rugby T-shirts, said founder Jack Breen.

The fair is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year and helps send teams to tournaments on the Mainland, which is a major opportunity for the players to be noticed by college coaches.

But even with the Sunday Market fundraiser, “it’s not going to make up for missing the fair,” Breen said, noting the large amount of foot traffic the fair generates.

A coach and secretary for Maui Rugby, Vasiti Lolohea, said that at the four-day fair, they would make around 500 plates every day and sell out. The Sunday Market sales are good, too; they make around 200 plates and sell out, but it’s still smaller than fair sales.

Lolohea, who is also a parent of players and fundraiser chairperson, said they will continue on with the Sunday Market and also look at other venues to fundraise.

Breen added that they “use as many avenues as we can” to raise funds, such as cake sales, car washes and T-shirts.

The fair fundraiser would normally pay for airfare expenses for about half the students they would take to the Mainland for travel. In its last trip prior to the pandemic, Maui Rugby took 36 students to the Mainland, he said.

Other sports programs that participated in the fair included St. Anthony Athletics, which sold soda at the event in 2019.

Interim Athletic Director Lionel Montalvo said the fundraiser at the fair is “kind of big” for the school and that the benefits were “twofold.”

“The funds we raise is good, (but) just getting all the different people together, it’s an experience,” he said.

COVID-19 not only canceled the Maui Fair but also stopped the annual Fun Daze Bazaar at the school, another fundraiser.

Montalvo said the school was able to collect funds mainly through virtual means last year, and that it holds an annual school golf tournament in June.

Overall, the athletic program is doing “OK.”

“We are very appreciative of the support that we have,” he said, noting especially the coaches’ support.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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