Maui Wildfire Recovery Fundraiser at Great Northern Bar Features Live Music, Raffle

The Sept. 20 fundraiser will feature four bands, and raffle items donated by more than a dozen local businesses

By Mike Kordenbrock
Kaanapali Beach on Maui, Hawaii at sunset. Adobestock

Living on an island, Kimberley Krost said, a feeling of interconnectedness can take hold. At some point, there’s a realization that everything you do has an effect on the rest of the island and its inhabitants.

That sense of togetherness creates a lasting connection, even when you move away and leave the island, which is what Krost did in 2017 when she uprooted her life in Hawaii and landed in Whitefish. For nearly 20 years before that, she called Hawaii home, including the island of Maui, where she relocated to in her 20s. Krost said her stepfather was raised in Hilo, and that her move to Hawaii allowed her to be involved in a business that her mother and stepfather started. Maui is where she raised her kids, including her daughter, Ash, who graduated from high school there.

Krost still has family on Maui, including her brother, who found himself working in Lahaina on Aug. 8 when a wind-driven fire devastated the community. That morning, there were already downed power lines and a fire in the area of Lahaina, which has a population of roughly 13,000 people. Krost said her brother saw the worrying conditions that day, decided to leave and was able to eventually make his way past a road closure. Before the situation rapidly deteriorated that day, there were already some road closures in place because of the fire and downed power lines, according to the Associated Press, which has reported that those closures made the fire in Lahaina even deadlier, in some cases leaving people trapped in traffic and unable to escape.

At times, Krost has felt helpless in the face of what happened. In conversation, people in the Flathead who know about her connection to the island ask her about the fire, but she said she sometimes tries to limit what she shares because of the subject’s gravity. The most recent estimates from officials put the death toll at 97 people in Lahaina. More than 2,000 structures were destroyed, and some estimates have put the total cost of rebuilding at more than $5 billion.

A promotional poster for the #MauiStrong Benefit on Sept. 20 at the Great Northern Bar in Whitefish. Courtesy image

Kimberley Krost’s daughter, Ash, also a Whitefish-area resident, said it felt “paralyzing” at times to hear nothing from family and friends on Maui as she watched the news coverage unfold. She’s since heard unsettling stories from people she knows, and has seen footage of flames burning within 10 feet of her childhood neighbors’ home.

“It was really sad to see that and hear some of those horrifying stories from my friends, and for awhile I was really just sad about it. And then I was like, well, no, I really just want to do something. I want to do something to help all these people, my friends, my family,” Ash Krost said.

Both women still believe in what the island was, what it is, and what it can be once again, and so they have resolved to do their part to help the people they once lived alongside. This Wednesday, Sept. 20, the Great Northern Bar in Whitefish is hosting a #MauiStrong Benefit fundraiser that Kimberley and Ash Krost, along with longtime local Vinnie Rannazzisi, have organized to raise money for the Maui Humane Society, Maui Food Bank and the Maui Economic Development. The plan is to donate 100% of the proceeds from the fundraising event towards those organizations.

Rannazzisi and Ash Krost are both musicians, with Rannazzisi playing in Hotdayum and both playing in Surfbat. The event will feature live music from four bands— Dan Dubuque, Way Down North, Hotdayum and Surfbat. There will also be a raffle, with auction items including gift certificates, gift baskets, and other goods and services. Raffle item donations have come from businesses including Stumptown Snowboards, Amazing Crepes, Slow Burn Records, Wasabi Sushi Bar, Chill Clothing Company, Jersey Boys Pizzeria, Indah Sushi, Third Street Market, Tailwaggers, Sappari, Bonsai Brewing, EBS Bags, The Nest, Cutthroat Tattoo and Moonjuice Tattoo. Additional information will also be available at the event to direct people towards other ways they can help the recovery effort.

The sign for the Great Northern Bar and Grill in downtown Whitefish. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The fundraiser starts at 6 p.m. and goes until midnight. Admission to the event is $5.

“The support is really, really great. I just started reaching out to local business owners and I wasn’t surprised that they were willing,” Kimberley Krost said. “But I was really humbled that they were very willing to donate right away.”

The way things have come together has left Krost feeling grateful to be a part of the Whitefish community, she said. Of her move to Whitefish more than five years ago, Krost said that her husband has family in the Flathead, and that the couple was also interested in educational opportunities at Whitefish High School for their son. She was a little concerned about the loss of that sense of community that had made Maui so dear to her, but those concerns have since been allayed.

Kimberley and Ash Krost both said that Rannazzisi suggested the idea of a benefit concert or fundraiser. For Ash, it made perfect sense.

“I’m in a couple of bands, so those are the only resources I really know how to tap into,” she said.

Kimberley Krost said that things moved quickly once they agreed on the idea, adding that within a day Scott Larkin, the manager of the Great Northern Bar, was on board.

As for her expectations for the event, Ash said she hopes the turnout is good. Like her mother, she acknowledged that what happened on Maui can be difficult to talk about, but she said the intention behind the benefit event is to create a positive atmosphere and to try and raise as much money as possible for the people of Maui.

“There’s so much history there, especially in Lahaina. To see all that gone … I just wanted to try and do something,” she said. “That’s where I grew up. I don’t live there anymore, but I just wanted to do anything I could to help, because some of the stories are just awful, just devastating.”

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