the new get-down in old wailuku town… first friday 09.02.11

First Friday Kicks Off Festivals of Aloha, Sept 2, 2011

Market Street teems with excitement as throngs of colorful people come out to Wailuku First Friday. The charming block has effectively shed its reputation as a “quiet, sleepy town” and donned an infectiously festive vibe by celebrating the best of local culture in this epic community gathering.

“First Friday, over the last three years, has grown exponentially,” said Brendan Smith, general manager of Requests Music. “It hasn’t only brought Wailuku together, it has also brought the rest of Maui together. It’s a great way to showcase what our town has to offer and I’ve been lucky to be part of it and see it grow.” Brendan has worked in Wailuku for eight years and is a board member of Wailuku Community Association, which oversees planning and permitting of the event.

It was barely 6pm by the time we rolled in and, sure enough, all nearby parking lots were already full. An eclectic crowd was streaming towards Market Street, which had been closed to traffic since 5:30pm. More than 4,000 were in attendance throughout the evening.

“We’ve been wanting to go for like a year and a half!” said Christine Rygiol, a fellow west-sider who I bumped into while watching street magician Timothy Wenk mystify a huddled audience with his sleight of hand and a deck of cards.

Thankfully, the good eats, retail therapy and choice entertainment were no illusion. The storefronts also offered some niche attraction. Exhale Yoga Studio hosted an art show, complete with a DJ and live performances. Swan Interiors displayed photography by Sterling Ross. The Main Street Promenade featured live music by alternative rock band, Visibly Shaken.

Smaller booths scattered along the avenue peddled trendy feather accessories, silver and beaded jewelry, face painting and even hula-hoops. A girl on skates with rainbow-bright hair stood out with fellow derby members at The Maui Roller Girls booth and jovially recruited potential members and volunteers.

Another highlight was Requests Music’s annual breakdancing contest, hosted by Smith. I shamelessly employed my charming kids Josie, Jonas, and their friend Addy to slice through the thick crowd so I can snap some pix. We posted up right in front and watched the incredible b-boys, and a lone b-girl, send everyone in a frenzy as a DJ spun bass-thumping, groove-inducing hip-hop in the background. After many rounds of improvised power moves and jaw dropping freezes, judges Brandon Harima, Brandon Ortiz and James Karren eventually gave the highest honor to local dance crew Ill Habitz.

On the main stage, a more mature but no less raucous crowd boogied down to Slam, a jazz-funk band formed by renowned jazz musician David Choy, who played the sax. We caught a few Earth, Wind and Fire covers and shook a little booty ourselves long enough to work up an appetite. The food court offered delicious fares from King’s BBQ, Casanova, 4 Sisters Kitchen and others, while Zia Maria’s Gelato had a kiosk a few yards away.

The next installment of Wailuku First Friday promises to be jam-packed with festivities as it launches the 2011 Festivals of Aloha and the month-long celebration of agriculture by the Maui County Farm Bureau. With the theme E Hi‘ipoi i Ka Lei Aloha: Cherished is the Beloved Child, the special evening will be headlined by the great Makaha Sons, with members Louis “Moon” Kauakahi on a six-string guitar, John Koko on upright acoustic bass and Jerome Koko on a 12-string guitar.

Additionally, September’s event honors Kraig Vickers, a Navy soldier who recently passed away in Afghanistan. “My heart is sad for the Vickers family as they gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation,” said event co-chair Yuki Lei Sugimura, who shares responsibilities with fellow co-chair Teri Edmonds. “His brother, Police Sgt. Mark Vickers is an integral part of the growing success of Wailuku First Friday, as we closely work with the Maui Police Department to ensure a safe event.”

She adds, “We appreciate Sgt. Vickers and we also wanted to show our appreciation as a community, to him and his family.” A memorial donation fund for the family has been set up with American Savings Bank.

“I think this is why Wailuku First Friday works,” said Sugimura. “We are not only about a celebration. It is about the Maui community, the aloha, about the people, for the people that make up the best island in the world!”

Hosted by honorary Chair Danny Mateo and cultural practitioner Kaponoai Molitau, the annual Festivals of Aloha, Maui Nui Style celebrates Hawai‘i’s heritage with royal pageantry, parades, street parties, and concerts throughout the island. Other event performers include Ikaika Blackburn, who will sing Hawaiian melodies and traditional Hawaiian Falsetto; Joel Katz on Hawaiian Steel Guitar; Gene Argel and ohana at the Wailuku Banyan Tree Park; and High Rise and Dejavu on the Maui Thing stage.

— eliza escaño

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