Hukilau Is Thriving and Taking It "to the Next Level" at Mai Kai Again

South Florida's premiere event for tiki-lovers, the Hukilau, returns, bigger and even more retro this year, offering one more day of activities. The schedule has gone from four to five days, starting today through Sunday, with more live acts, symposiums, and even mermaids (of the fire-eating variety). And as the added umbrella garnish to your cool tropical concoction, it turns out this will not be the grand finale of the annual celebration as we had originally reported back in January.

We spoke to event organizer and co-founder Christie White who tells us that due to a influx of support (both financial and logistical) she received from two unnamed Hukilau supporters, she will not be drawing the curtain on this beloved event. So don't throw out your pomade and Hawaiian shirts just yet.

White reached a point where putting on the yearly Hukilau was becoming a drain on her. "I was at a crossroads and had to choose if I was going to put forth my full attention into my non-tiki job (her day is as a business operations specialist for a salon and spa in Birmingham, Alabama), or into trying take the Hukilau to the next level and do this professionally."

As it turns out, White is going to keep the tiki torch burning after all, primarily because she struck a partnership deal with other Hukilau enthusiasts who will be helping her grow and nurture the event in the future. But she's still keeping the day job. "At least until I'm crowned tiki princess," joked White.

She's been producing the Hukilau since 2002 and has seen the event grow in magnitude since its move to Fort Lauderdale's Mai Kai in 2003. White expects more that 1,200 attendees this year, versus the 400 that attended back in 2003. She attributes part of the success to the venue, which she calls a one-of-kind, mid-century icon. "It's a special place, opened in 1956 and still family owned." White is looking forward to throwing another Hukilau in two years, when Mai Kai celebrates its 60th anniversary.

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For its 13th annual run, the Hukilau will be offering symposiums for the very first time. She's excited about the Cocktails and Fishtails talk, presented by Vintage Roadside and Medusirena (the fire-breathing mermaid we mentioned earlier). This boozy lecture will shed light on the history of porthole bars, you know, nautical themed bars from yesteryear where you could go in, have a cold one, and watch a few mermaids frolic. White tells us that they'll be having their own Wreck Bar, where you can witness the beauty of women in fish-tale bottoms holding their breaths for incredible amounts of time.

Additionally, there will be talks by Tiki historian Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, Philip Greene, co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans and author of To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, and noted tattoo artist and historian Paul Roe. Also look out for performances from Gold Dust Lounge, the Smokin' Menehunes, Grinder Nova, Angie Pontani, the Sweet Hollywaiians, and Arm of Buddha, who made the trek all the way from Belgium for their U.S. debut.

The events will be scattered throughout two other locations besides the Mai Kai: the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and the Sheraton Beach Hotel.

White tells us that Hukilau is a Hawaiian fishing celebration where the community revels in the fishermans' catches. "Likewise, we are throwing a net out to tiki fans across the world and inviting them to com celebrate with us." For White, the tiki movement is all about togetherness, meeting friends, fostering relationships, and drinking great rum.

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