Maui Fair workers, volunteers see all sides


Fair-goers choose from among the inviting bottles of fruit punch during the four-day run of the 89th annual Maui Fair in Kahului, Sept. 29-Oct. 2.

By Kalani Ruidas, Features co-editor

The crowds are gone, the trash has been cleared, and the booths and tents are slowly disappearing, but the spirit of the fair lives on in the experiences of those who work there.

Since its first appearance in 1922, the Maui County Fair has been a tradition for many Maui residents. The fair in all of its dust-filled glory has become a part of what living on Maui is all about.

Seasoned fair-goers will tell you about their favorite sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the fair. But many overlook the workers and volunteers who help make these memories possible.

Freshman volunteer Keanu Catugal collected admittance tickets to partly fulfill his community service graduation requirement.

“It’s been a real learning experience; I’ve seen a lot of different people,” he said. He enjoys seeing the different kinds of hats and headwear come in through the front gates. Although he would have preferred spending his fair time riding rides with his friends, Catugal said that he feels that he has served his community well.

Officer Leif Adachi of the Maui Police Department has been on the police force for 18 years. He said that he especially enjoys patrolling the fair, being out in the crowd and seeing people in the community.

Officer Adachi said his main priority is safety. The majority of the reports that he has dealt with are lost children. However, he has also seen his share of serious action.

“There have been fights. There have been assaults that have happened. We try to keep a lot of manpower inside and outside of the fair. We have a lot of off-duty and plain clothes officers to watch the area. We try to keep a handle on it,” Officer Adachi said.

E. K. Fernandez employee Michelle, who did not volunteer a last name, was stationed at the Stop-N-Glow kiosk for the four-day duration of the fair. Their most popular items were glow swords and bubble guns. She said that Stop-N-Glow sold out of merchandise on Thursday and Saturday and that she had to restock three times on those days.

Michelle said, “It’s my first time actually working here. It’s been really busy, but I’d do it again,”

One beloved fair treat is the animal-shaped bottles of fruit punch.  Iwalani, another E. K. Fernandez employee who would not give a last name,  has been manning the juice station for 11 years. She said that people of all ages come to partake of the fruity beverage, the most popular animals being the dinosaur and lion.

“When I was a little girl, my favorite was the pink dinosaur,” she said.

Over the years, Iwalani has accumulated some memorable experiences working at the fair. “One bad experience was getting bitten by red ants behind here,” Iwalani said, indicating the area behind her stand.

Next year marks the 90th anniversary, and with it, the return of the hundreds of employees and volunteers who make it happen.