In December, the Mai-Kai, one of the premier tiki-themed Polynesian restaurants in the country (and perhaps the world), turns 60. But there's nothing wrong with starting the party early. Beginning June 8, the 15th-annual Hukilau will honor the Mai-Kai's birthday with tiki enthusiasts from around the globe marking the occasion with a flood of rum drinks, five days of festivities, and a small army of musicians.
The word "hukilau" refers to a method of net fishing in ancient Polynesia that involved the entire community. The word was adopted in 2002 for an annual gathering of people who love tiki culture and all it encompasses — like surf rock, loungey atmospheres, and strong cocktails. This year's event is scheduled to run June 8-12 and is packed with a full schedule of happenings at multiple venues: dance parties, dinners, cocktail-making seminars, documentary screenings, and sales of tiki-style items. And, of course, there is an outing to catch the Mai-Kai's famous Polynesian dinner show. The Hukilau and the Mai-Kai have big plans to please both the attendees and the tiki gods.
Events outside the Mai-Kai will once again be hosted at the waterfront Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six hotel, which just received a $20 million facelift. The renovations focused on the marina, which visitors can look down on from the hotel's rotating rooftop penthouse lounge where the Tiki Tower Takeover will be held for a second year.
Returning to fulfill his duties as MC is the always charming and goofy King Kukulele, armed with his ukulele and his wit. In addition to him, the lineup of special guests for the 2016 edition of the Hukilau includes popular scene artists (Tom Fowner, Will Anders, Jeff Chouinard), cocktail creators (Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, Brian Miller, St. John Frizell), bands and musicians (the Tikiyaki Orchestra, Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides, the Intoxicators, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, the Quiet Villagers, the Disasternauts), performers (Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid, Angie Pontani, Kitten de Ville, Lila Starlet), and pop culture historians (Otto von Stroheim, Tim "Swanky" Glazner, Humuhumu, Paul Roe).
One guest appearance organizers are especially excited about is artist Josh Agle, who goes by the moniker Shag. He's bringing his distinctly cool, futuristic-retro style with him. His work incorporates the sharp lines and bright, vivid colors of midcentury, suburban cocktail culture — think Mad Men meets The Jetsons.
Although five-day passes are sold out, there are plenty of single-, three-, and four-day passes available. Multiday passes range from the three-day Luau Pass ($130) to the four-day Aloha Pass ($150). One-day passes are available for Thursday ($55) and Friday ($95). The Thursday afterparty at Kreepy Tiki Lounge is $15, while a Friday-night pass for the High Tide event featuring bands and burlesque is $70.
With Tikiyaki Orchestra, Jason Lee, and the R.I.P. Tides, the Intoxicators, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, the Disasternauts, and others. Wednesday, June 8, through Sunday, June 12, at Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six, 2301 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale, and Kreepy Tiki, 2608 S. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale). Tickets cost $15 to $150 plus fees via thehukilau.ticketleap.com.
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