Story by Lehia Apana | Photo by Mieko Horikoshi
TITLE: Marketing Director at Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center
SNOW WAY! Last December, Toni Rojas and her team filled Central Maui’s largest shopping center with holiday magic. Using special effects adapted from Hollywood movie sets, they dropped millions of water-based bubbles to create a “snowfall” at the mall’s center court.
“When I pitched the idea to the mall’s owners in Michigan, I told them that we are deprived of snow over here,” Toni grins. “That brought on lots of laughs, but they said go for it.”
Toni estimates that more than 24,000 people came to “Let It Snow!” between December 1 and 24. “The first night we had about 1,400 people here. It went viral and the second night we had 4,000 people,” says Toni. “There was always a moment when the snow started to fall and the entire crowd went, ‘Ahhh.’ It was a chicken-skin moment.”
MAUI GOLD: Toni’s snowfall helped win over the folks at the International Council of Shopping Centers. Out of hundreds of entries from around the world, the council awarded Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center a 2017 Gold MAXI Award.
“The conference brought together 37,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibitors from fifty-eight countries, so it’s a really big deal,” says Toni.
COMMUNITY CENTER: When Toni joined the team at Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center nearly two years ago, the mall was hosting around 100 events and promotions each year. “Now we’re doing over 300 a year,” she says, rattling off a diverse list of community-building and fundraising activities, including the annual Kokua for Kokonuts walk to support breast-cancer awareness, and last year’s Plantation Festival, which celebrated Maui’s multicultural heritage.
As we become a more fragmented society, free events like the ones Toni conceives and produces help bring our disparate populations together. And in an age when online shopping behemoths are decimating brick-and-mortar centers, what Toni does to bring people to the mall helps keep hundreds of Maui folks employed.
“Maui really is a melting pot and our events reflect that,” she says. “QKC is for everyone from keiki to kūpuna.”