It's kitschy. It's fun. It's a one of a kind tiki celebration — and it's all going down in Fort Lauderdale next month.
It's the Hukilau. The annual Polynesian pop-lovers party known nationwide will be returning to Broward County for yet another summertime extravaganza celebrating tiki culture, cocktails, art, and more.
This year marks the 15th annual Hukilau event, what has morphed into a five-day tiki fest that today draws thousands of tikiphiles from across the globe to kick back and revel in all that retro era culture with a series of symposiums and events including live music performances, dancing, and art shows served up alongside some of the world's best rum punch cocktails.
For those of who who aren't in the "know," a hukilau is the name for the traditional Hawaiian festival held in the fishing villages across the island chain. Back in the day, fishermen would cast large nets into the ocean, trapping schools of fish for the villagers to pull ashore. The feast that followed was a celebration of the spirit of family and community, also called 'ohana.
Today, the Fort Lauderdale-based Hukilau event represents a metaphorical net cast out over the entire world, bringing lovers of Polynesian pop (another world for extreme tiki culture love) together to recognize and celebrate historic tiki locations across the nation's East Coast.
For the 2016 event expect to find some of the biggest names in tiki, including the leading players of the US tiki revival led by artist Shag and author Jeff "Beachbum" Berry. The event will also honor the upcoming 60th anniversary of The Mai-Kai, the historic Polynesian restaurant that has served as home base of the event for a decade and a half.
This year's Hukilau will begin Wednesday, June 8 and run through Sunday, June 12. As always, the event features a unique line-up of live music, symposiums, guest speakers and special guests from the Polynesian pop world. The event is best known for its colorful displays of tiki "exotica" including retro art work, surfer music, rum-soaked cocktails and Polynesian dance shows.
The Hukilau will also feature a Tiki Treasures Bazaar where guests can find artwork, authentic carvings, mugs, aloha wear, vintage collectibles, and vinyl records from all over the world. The bazaar, along with special tasting booths from spirits sponsors, can be found at the Pier 66 hotel's main Crystal Ballroom and atrium from Thursday through Saturday (open to the public on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
In keeping with last year's changes, many of the 2016 events will take place at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66, as well as several at the Mai Kai — South Florida's own tiki bar and restaurant originally established in 1956. Exclusive symposiums at Pier 66 will spotlight tiki cocktails, history, art, and tattoos. Live entertainment will be provided daily by acclaimed surf and exotica bands plus legends of the modern burlesque scene.
That includes Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, who will perform exclusive swim shows Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at the oceanfront Wreck Bar at the B Ocean Resort. A Wednesday pre-party, Sunday finale, and Saturday main event will be held at The Mai-Kai. And the Thursday after-party will be held at nearby Kreepy Tiki Lounge.
Symposium presenters and entertainers include bands from Florida and California including the Tikiyaki Orchestra, Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides, The Intoxicators, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, The Quiet Villagers, The Disasternauts, plus emcee King Kukulele; tiki and pop culture historians Otto von Stroheim, Paul Roe, Tim "Swanky" Glazner, Humuhumu; and acclaimed Tiki bar owners and mixologists Martin Cate (San Francisco), Paul McGee (Chicago), Brian Miller (New York City), and St. John Frizell (Brooklyn); and well-known burlesque stars Angie Pontani, Kitten de Ville, and Lila Starlet.
Tickets to symposiums are sold separately and include "World War Tiki" by Jeff "Beachbum" Berry; "I Learned My ABC's in Waikiki" by Shag; "The Mai-Kai: History, Mystery and Adventure" by Tim Glazner; and "Innocence Lost, Paradise Found: The Evolution of Old-School American Tattooing" by Paul Roe. (These symposiums and Friday Night High Tide event will be held in the waterfront Panorama Ballroom at Pier 66).
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Already sold out are The Hukilau's two signature cocktail parties, held at the hotel's 17th floor rotating ballroom, including The Tiki Tower Takeover (featuring Berry, Cate, McGee, Miller, and Frizell slinging world-class cocktails), and Shag's SkyLounge (a "Martini meet and mingle" hosted by the artist and decorated in his distinctive style).
Following the symposiums on Saturday, a new event will bring together some of the pioneers of the modern tiki revival for the panel discussion "Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture." Another addition for Friday will be "The Tiki Road Trip Pool Party" featuring five tiki bars from across the country serving signature cocktails in booths surrounding the Pier 66 pool.
The 2016 Hukilau will take place June 8 through 12 at various locations across Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are available for purchase online ranging from three- and four-day weekend passes to day, night, and special event passes. To purchase tickets visit thehukilau.com, or visit the website for a complete schedule of events at thehukilau.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.