If you mentioned going to a Tiki Bar 20 years ago, your yuppie friends would take a sip of white zinfandel and laugh you back to The Gap. Well, things have changed, and Tiki is once again the hip, happenin’ scene for a burgeoning crowd of party-goers looking for the next big shindig. And it just so happens that Fort Lauderdale is home to one of the biggest, most “Tiki-tastic” shindigs on the planet…2011 marks the 10th anniversary of The Hukilau, Florida’s answer to the west coast Tiki culture explosion.
Tiki means different things to different people. To most of the world a Tiki Bar is a little thatched hut by the beach serving fun, fruity drinks and playing island style music, and that’s fine. But for a growing number of die-hard mid-century Tiki revivalists, it’s a whole other Pápa’ikou. It’s the combination of all the best parts of the Tiki Bar scene’s heyday, that wonderful era between 1935 and 1965 when cool cats and swingin’ kittens could sneak a kiss in a darkened corner of a tropical oasis without actually jet-setting to the South Pacific. It’s a celebration of the music (dubbed “Exotica” after the defining 1957 Martin Denny album), exotic cocktails (strong, complex rum-based drinks made strictly with fresh ingredients), art (from antique Polynesian Tikis to modern-day paintings and carvings) and dance (including the Hawaiian Hula, 1950s party dances like the Cha-Cha, and even underwater aquatic performances by tail-flipping mermaids). These are the elements that swing together to form today’s Tiki Culture.
The Hukilau 2011 will combine the best of these elements into a four-day event spread across four Fort Lauderdale locations: Bahia Cabana Hotel, Bahia Mar Hotel, The Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort (we all know it as The Yankee Clipper) and The Mai-Kai Polynesian Restaurant.
Daily entertainment, symposiums, presentations, a vintage/Tiki treasures bazaar and of course the mixing of exotic concoctions will take place at each location. Live music by such revered bands as The Tikiyaki Orchestra and The Intoxicators! (among others) mix with the zaniness of King Kukulele and the sultry retro-aquatic performances of Fort Lauderdale’s own Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of “Aquaticats”. A Tiki art exhibit by the Harold Golen Gallery of Miami and a “Rumposium” by the famous cocktail-slinging Jeff “Beachbum” Berry add a touch of sophistication (as well as a lot of rum) to the event. Plus there are many other presentations, bands, DJs and parties planned for the weekend, including two Polynesian Revues presented by the Mai-Kai on Saturday. The event ends Sunday with The Mai-Kai/Hukilau “Share the Memories”, an exhibit of photos and memorabilia dating back to the Mai-Kai’s opening in 1956.
While exotic rum-based cocktails served by tanned, sarong-clad women in dimly-lit, 1950s style Polynesian-themed restaurants is the basis for this modern day Tiki revival, for 55 years there’s been no better place to enjoy this mysteriously decadent lifestyle than Fort Lauderdale’s famous landmark, The Mai-Kai Polynesian Restaurant. The Mai-Kai, located on US-1 in Oakland Park, has been center stage at The Hukilau since the event came to Florida in 2003. With most of the original 1956 decor and ambiance still intact, the Mai-Kai has become a focal point of the Tiki community, with The Hukilau being the destination of their yearly pilgrimage to the land that time could not forget.
Since this is the 10th anniversary of The Hukilau, producer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White expects the event will be more fun and exciting than ever. Hundreds of people are attending The Hukilau 2011, but tickets for the event are still available. An “Aloha” pass for all parties is available (symposiums and Mai-Kai dinner show are ticketed separately), or you can buy tickets for each night ala carte. For more information on the schedule of events and entertainment lineup, or to purchase tickets, visit The Hukilau 2011 website at http://www.thehukilau.com/2011.