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A Brief History of the Maui Fair

The Maui Fair is one of the most eclectic and widely anticipated events on Maui, drawing thousands of locals and tourists every year. Though the Maui Fair we see today is very different from what it looked like 100 years ago, it still provides the same sense of nostalgia and wonder for all generations. Below we’ll look at the humble beginnings of the Maui Fair and how it became the massive, multi-cultural community event it is today.

Early Years

The first ever Maui Fair took place on November 30th, 1916. At this point in Maui’s history the island was not as densely populated, and the agricultural industry dominated most open spaces. But 10 acres of what we know today as Kahului was partitioned off to make way for the massive white tents that would house performers and showcase the talents and artistic abilities of the locals. Most of the items on display were domestic in nature, including pottery, artwork, handwoven bedspreads, and intricately embroidered clothing.

To start off the festivities there was a parade much like the one we enjoy today with dancers, performers and the Hawaiian Band of Honolulu. For entertainment the Maui Fair organizers shipped in a massive elephant from the Honolulu Zoo named Daisy and had live music as well as plenty of food. They also used several trucks to transport plantation workers and their families to the fairgrounds who otherwise would not have been able to go.

Over the years that have followed that first Maui Fair in 1916 the annual event has grown to include numerous other performances and attractions that are as diverse as the people that call this island home. There have been Wild West shows, ice skating, mock infantry battles, horse racing and sporting competitions just to name a few of the events that make the Maui Fair something truly unique and special. There were some interruptions in the Fair’s history, including a break in both 1917 and 1918 and a longer stretch during the height of World War II. This year marks the 97th Maui Fair, and is speculated to draw well over 80,000 people.

Modern Day

The Maui Fair as it exists today would look very different to someone who attended the first fair in 1916. There are numerous motorized rides, lights, music and a food court that may draw more crowds than ‘The Zipper’. One thing that remains closely tied to the first fair is the livestock exhibit, where families can enjoy goats, chickens and even cows, though the only thing missing is Daisy the elephant.

This weekend marks the 97th time the Fair has been held, and organizers are intent on delighting attendees with rides, multicultural food, live entertainment and numerous contests. The Maui Fair also provides funding for many of the community and non-profit organizations that help Maui residents grow and thrive.