Fright night swan song

If you’ve been to one of Darroin “Zabbie” Zablan’s Halloween block parties, you know how fun they can be. 

He goes all in for his annual fright night festivities. Only this isn’t about ghouls and ghosts and monsters and mayhem. It’s about friends and families — strangers, too — coming together at Zablan’s home in Waialeale Estates in Kapahi.

In just two hours, from 6 to 8 p.m., more than 500 kids and adults have made their way to Zablan’s door in each of the 12 years it’s been held. They put out chairs, kupuna take a seat, talk story and everyone parties. Nothing like an evening watching kids enjoy what has become known as an Ohana Halloween block party.

What’s there? It’s a lengthy list, but it includes shave ice, cotton candy, popcorn, hot dogs, cookies, juice, live music and movies. Even portable toilets are brought in, too.

“Last year, I gave out 700 hot dogs, 40 gallons of juice, and about 100 pounds of candy,” he said.

Zablan’s party has quietly (well, maybe not so quietly) become one of Kauai’s most treasured traditions. But, as with all good things, it must come to an end — even if it’s one that generates enough smiles and laughter to light up an entire neighborhood.

Turn out the lights. This party is almost over. You still have time to get there.

“This is going to be the last one,” he said. “I’m just getting overwhelmed.”

Zablan is one busy guy and you wonder how he ever pulled this off in the first place. He’s a husband, an Easter Seals volunteer and plays music solo and with a trio, “Maluhia,” on the North Shore. He also recently started a new sound and lighting business that’s doing well.

So, he’s been pondering if his Halloween extravaganza could continue. Was it time to blow out the candles on the jack-o-lantern?

“Last year, I was thinking about it,” he said.

And he decided, it was time.

“I just wanted to let the people know that usually come,” he said. “I think when I do this, people are going to be calling me. Why?

I just wanted to let them.”

It’s always been a labor of love. Zablan, with some help from brothers and sisters who fly in from Oahu, and neighbors, takes a full two days to set up for the celebration, and another two days to break it all down.

Party night, you’ll find him here and there, keeping the lines flowing smoothly and maintaining order from chaos.

“I do this for the community,” he said.

That’s just habit for him by now.

Zablan used to work for the Boys and Girls Club in Kapaa, so he invited kids to his home if they needed a place to hang out. It was a place where they felt safe and welcome.

Somewhere along the line, Zablan and company thought, “We ought to feed these guys.”

“That’s when we started to serve hot dogs, just to give back to the kids,” he said.

Eventually, it was decided that an annual Halloween party would unite young and young at heart. The entire cul de sac is decorated. Some 30 to 40 volunteers help run the games and food booths.

“It’s like a mini carnival,” he said.

And the response has been and continues to be beautiful to behold, if you can have beauty on a night known for scary things going bump in the dark.

Those kids from the Boys and Girls Club grew into adults and had kids of their own. And they remembered Zablan’s big-hearted ways. Families come from Hanalei to Kekaha to remember the good times and create more.

“My family heard there’s a party up there,” some will say when they arrive at this home, 5338 Olopua St.

All these goodies, of course, cost money. Zablan pegs the pricetag around $1,500. That’s again, where friends, family and neighbors chip in.

“They give from the heart,” Zablan said.

So, it’s down to one more bash, this Saturday night. And they will come. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, once word spreads this is Zabbie’s swan song.

He appreciates how grateful everyone is who attends the party, how they thank him and his army of volunteers. He said he’ll miss the children and the families and the good times that have come to define this Ohana Halloween block party.

That’s why, this Saturday, while he’ll certainly be busy, he plans to sneak in a few minutes when he can just soak in the sights and sounds one more time.

“When I’m not doing something, I’ll see back and watch,” he said.

And remember.

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