One of the important life lessons, a cliché that's oh-so-true, is that all good things must come to an end. Things that bring us delight and wonderment diminish all too quickly -- like boy bands, Twinkies, or fanny packs. Just yesterday, though, a treasured Fort Lauderdale tradition announced it is soon to also become a thing of the past. Hukilau, a four-day Tiki fest that celebrates Polynesian pop culture will bid "aloha" as it celebrates its final run this June.
Traditionally speaking, a Hukilau [hoo-kee-lau] is a Hawaiian festival that celebrates "ohana" or "family" (see, Lilo and Stitch were onto something!). To keep this tradition intact in the U.S., the Hukilau made its grand appearance 13 years ago in Atlanta at Trader Vic's. Since 2003, it has been held in Fort Lauderdale at the Mai-Kai, a 57-year-old Polynesian restaurant.
Cofounder and organizer of the event Christie J. White, AKA Tiki Kiliki, wants to direct her focus to other things in life. "This is the final year of the Hukilau as I am focusing on different aspects of my life and career," she says. "The Hukilau can be all-consuming, even with the great team that I have to help me. It's time I dedicate time to my family and work."
White promises that this year will be the "the Hukilau to end all Hukilaus," even stating that the event will last five days instead of four. "There's a boat cruise planned on the Jungle Queen, four different symposiums ranging from Tiki cocktails to Hemingway, hula lessons, and many more details that haven't yet made it onto the website!"
Other forms of entertainment for this final aloha are 45 vendors worldwide and two special guest performers: King Kukulele, a comedian and ukuleleist, and Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid. Yes, you read that right. There is a fire-eating mermaid. In fact, the Hukilau resurrected the weekly mermaid swim show at the Yankee Clipper.
Although no one can promise that they'll breathe fire or look good in a bikini, seven bands will be present. The lineup includes the Blue Hawaiians, Slip and the Spinouts, the Intoxicators, the Smokin' Menehunes, Gold Dust Lounge, the Left Arm of Buddha, and Skinny Jimmy & the Stingrays.
White promises that the Hulilau's spirit will live on. "You don't have to have a special event to go to the Mai-Kai," she says. "Many people can have their own Hukilau by spreading the word and telling others and spreading aloha spirit. It continues to live at the Mai-Kai since 1956 and will continue much longer after we're gone. It is a rare experience to share the Hukilau with hundreds of people that love and appreciate the Mai-Kai and Polynesian pop culture. I hope that everyone that ever wanted to make the pilgrimage chooses the Hukilau in 2014!"
The Hukilau, June 11 to 15, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and the Mai-Kai restaurant, 3599 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Admission starts at $20. Visit thehukilau.com.