The Week in Tiki (April 20-26, 2015): Rum fest invades Miami, South Florida’s underwater Easter Island, Shag goes to ‘The Twilight Zone’

The Week in Tiki As expected, the Miami Rum Festival dominated the news this week, but an unlikely story about giant Easter Island-style moai being sunk off the coast of South Florida certainly piqued our interest. Also worth noting is the return of the Chicago Area Tiki Tour, plus the upcoming release of a limited-edition print by Shag that pays tribute to The Twilight Zone. Weekly features spotlight artist Dawn Frasier, the Bahama Bob’s Rumstyles blog, the exotica and hapa haole sounds of Kinky Waikiki, and Miami Beach cocktail bar The Broken Shaker. To enhance your reading enjoyment, try some Pusser’s British Navy rum in the classic Painkiller.
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Rum aficionados gather for 7th annual Miami festival

Thousands of enthusiasts, experts and VIPs congregated in Miami last week for the seventh annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. The Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center was ground zero for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday grand tastings, with hundreds of rums exhibited, tasted and judged.

Plantation Rums from throughout the Caribbean won a festival-best eight awards

Plantation Rums from throughout the Caribbean won a festival-best eight awards. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Many new rums were on display in what seemed like a transition year for the both the industry and the festival. Bigger producers were absent, but smaller labels filled the gap with some serious innovation and commitment to quality. Also, the festival itself seemed to take itself more seriously, with a concerted effort to cut back on the party atmosphere of some past events.

Not that the rum fest was not a blast, as usual. In addition to the many rum company booths on the 50,000-square-foot convention floor, there were entertaining and educational seminars daily, plus live entertainment and merchandise vendors. There were also evening events throughout the week marking the second annual Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week, ranging from Tuesday’s Tiki Night at The Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale to Thursday at The Broken Shaker in Miami Beach.

A big part of the festival remains the RumXP Competition, the annual awards determined by a panel of rum experts from around the world. Sequestered for three days of judging 127 rums in 14 categories, the experts faced a wide array of new rums in addition to old standbys. There were 35 rums making their U.S. debut in Miami, with another 28 appearing at the festival for the first time.

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The Week in Tiki (April 13-19, 2015): Miami Rum Festival and Cocktail Week, Tiki Mondays With Miller, Ohana: Luau at the Lake

The Week in TikiThis week’s highlights are Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week and Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. We also have a preview of Tiki Mondays With Miller’s Spring Equinox Edition, plus news on June’s Ohana: Luau at the Lake selling out. Weekly features spotlight artist Doug Horne, website Inu a Kena, surf guitar legend Dick Dale, and Chicago’s Lost Lake. The rum of the week, Plantation Original Dark, is featured in Trader Vic’s Tutu Rum Punch.
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Miami Rum Festival and Cocktail Week is here

The seventh annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and second annual Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week are in full swing this week as some of South Florida’s top bars host nightly events and enthusiasts gather for weekend grand tastings at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

The Cocktail Week events are free. Check MiamiCocktailWeek.com for dates, times and venues. Tickets for the convention center main events are $75 for Saturday, $50 for Sunday, and $100 for a three-day VIP pass, which includes Friday’s International Trade Expo for industry representatives. Note that tickets must be purchased in advance via MiamiRumFest.com or by phone at (877) 855-3378. No tickets will be sold at the door.

This year’s focus is new rums: 35 are making their U.S. debut, and another 28 are making their Miami Rum Festival debut. Nearly 200 expressions will be available for tasting at the convention center, where you can also learn about rum at 10 seminars by industry experts and scholars. There’s also live music and entertainment, island lifestyle vendors and interactive cocktail demonstrations.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ATOMIC GROG’S FULL PREVIEW

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2015 Miami Rum Festival spotlights explosion of new brands

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival has always been a unique opportunity to sample some of the best new cane spirits before they gain widespread distribution across the country. But this year, festival organizers have taken that coming out party to a new level with dozens of emerging rum brands from South Florida, Georgia, Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname, Austria, Denmark, Japan, the Philippines and India all making their U.S. debut.

Miami Rum Festival

There will be 35 new rums making their U.S. debut at the festival, said Robin Burr, who organizes and hosts the event with husband Robert A. and son Robert V. Burr. In addition to those, another 28 rums will be making their Miami Rum Festival debut, giving attendees plenty of new products to peruse during next weekend’s Grand Tasting events. [See the full list of new rums below]

Considered the largest rum festival in the world, the event will also feature celebrity seminars, live music and entertainment, island lifestyle vendors and interactive cocktail demonstrations. It’s a rare chance for enthusiasts to meet and mingle with rum experts and professionals to learn about rum, cocktails and the surrounding culture.

2015 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival: Friday, April 17, through Sunday, April 19, at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. Tickets, hotel and more info at MiamiRumFest.com and Facebook. Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week is Monday, April 13, through Sunday, April 19, at venues throughout South Florida. More info at MiamiCocktailWeek.com and Facebook.
2014 Atomic Grog recaps: Cocktail Week | Rum Fest | Photo gallery | All past coverage

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $50 for Sunday general admission, $75 for a Saturday VIP pass, and $100 for a three-day VIP pass. In a change from past years, tickets must be purchased in advance via MiamiRumFest.com or by phone at (877) 855-3378. No tickets will be available at the door. Parking at the convention center is $5 per day, including in and out. Rooms at the Doubletree are sold out, but there are still rooms available at host hotels on Miami Beach.

Here’s a rundown on all the week’s activities:

MIAMI RUM FESTIVAL COCKTAIL WEEK

Now in its second year, Cocktail Week features special rum cocktails and activities for VIPs and rum enthusiasts spread over seven venues in seven nights, from Fort Lauderdale to Coconut Grove.

* Monday, April 13: Tiki Horror Night at the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, Coconut Grove. Enjoy Tiki cocktails while watching a kitchy horror movie.

The Grapefruit Julep, created by The Mai-Kai for the Miami Rum Festival featuring Fwaygo Rum, grapefruit juice, grenadine and bitters

The Grapefruit Julep, created by The Mai-Kai for the Miami Rum Festival featuring Fwaygo Rum, grapefruit juice, grenadine and bitters. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* Tuesday, April 14: Tiki Night at The Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale, featuring happy hour cocktails in The Molokai bar followed by the famous Polynesian Islander Review dinner show . Happy hour runs from 5 to 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8. Rum Fest attendees get half off the show charge and a complimentary Fwaygo Rum cocktail, the Grapefruit Julep. There will also be bus transportation between the Doubletree and The Mai-Kai for $25. Rum Fest guests must RSVP in advance by calling the restaurant at (954) 563-3272.
Related: The Atomic Grog’s Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide

* Wednesday, April 15: Havana Night at The Regent Cocktail Club at the Gale Hotel (Miami Beach), 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

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The Week in Tiki (April 6-12, 2015): Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows open, Miami Rum Festival coming up

The Week in TikiThis week’s top news is the grand opening of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, plus the latest on Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and Cocktail Week. Also noted are The Hukilau’s 2015 mug, and the death of Polynesian performer Ernie Menehune. Weekly features spotlight artist Thor, website The Floating Rum Shack, exotica pioneer Martin Denny, and Tucson’s Kon Tiki. The rum of the week, Flor de Caña white, is featured in the Pieces of Eight cocktail.
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Disney World celebrates grand opening of reimagined Polynesian Village

A dancer performs during a celebration of the grand opening of Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows on March 31, 2015

A dancer performs during a celebration of the grand opening of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows on March 31, 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Disney’s Polynesian Village, one of the Orlando resort’s original flagship hotels, has unveiled an expansive two-year renovation designed to lure visitors with lavish new rooms, refreshed lobby and pools, and an interactive Tiki-themed lounge.

April 1 was the grand opening of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, the latest Disney Vacation Club (DVC) addition to the sprawling Disney World property. The 360 deluxe studio rooms are being added to the 39-acre resort’s 11 existing South Seas themed longhouse buildings, while the 20 bungalows were built over the water on Seven Seas Lagoon with scenic views of the Magic Kingdom.

Disney held a media preview event on March 31, with tours of all the new additions as well as a grand-opening ceremony that included a torch-lighting and traditional fire-dancing by a performer from the resort’s Spirit of Aloha dinner show. Ken Potrock, the executive who oversees Disney Vacation Club, called the Polynesian “the third jewel in our monorail crown,” joining the nearby villas at the Grand Floridian and Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort.

The new Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort are furnished in mid-century modern style

The new Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort are furnished in mid-century modern style. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, March 31, 2015)

The Bora Bora Bungalows are the most spectacular addition, providing a unique and luxurious experience for guests. With two bedrooms, two baths and full kitchen, these freestanding huts inspired by traditional Polynesian structures sleep up to eight guests. Despite the stylistic similarities, these are not primitive accommodations. Disney’s bungalows include three giant flat-screen TVs, a TV embedded in the master bathroom’s mirror, a surround-sound entertainment system featuring invisible speakers in the wall, a washer and dryer, and many artistic touches that harken back to the history of Disney and the Polynesian Village.

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The Week in Tiki (March 30, 2015): Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto soft opening, Miami Cocktail Week schedule

The Week in TikiThis week’s big news is the opening of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. There are also updates on Miami Cocktail Week, Tales of the Cocktail tickets, and a new mug from Kevin Kidney. Plus: Montreal loses a classic Tiki venue, while Milwaukee may be gaining one. Weekly features spotlight artist Tiki Tony, Robert Burr’s Rum Guide, Japanese band Kenny Sasaki & The Tiki Boys, and San Francisco’s historic Tonga Room. The rum of the week, Smith & Cross, is featured in the Captain’s Blood cocktail.
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LAST WEEK IN REVIEW (March 23-29, 2015)

Crowds flock to Trader Sam’s soft opening at Polynesian Village Resort

The Disney and Tiki universes collided on Saturday, March 28, to create the perfect storm of excitement at Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort. Fans and devotees lined up five hours in advance and some waited for more than six for the chance to be among the first to experience Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto is filled with Tiki and Disney memorabilia, plus many special effects triggered when patrons order specific drinks

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is filled with Tiki and Disney memorabilia, plus many special effects triggered when patrons order specific drinks. (Disney Parks Blog photo)

The elaborate bar created by Disney’s famed Imagineers finally held its soft opening Saturday after a week of VIP and cast member previews. The announcement Friday on the Disney Parks Blog ignited the fan frenzy, with many showing up before noon for the 4 p.m. opening.

Hundreds were lined up around the resort’s Papatee Bay marina all afternoon. When they reached the front of the line, they were given pagers to alert them when there was space for them in the bar. Some reported waiting three hours to get a pager, then another three to get in the door. Once inside, many enthusiasts who have been waiting for months as news trickled out about Trader Sam’s coming to Disney World just didn’t want to leave.

The Grog Grotto seats just 50, and no extra guests are allowed, making the experience as immersive and enjoyable as possible. Another 82 can enjoy the outdoor Tiki Terrace, where the same food and drink menu is available (including all the souvenir mugs). Both stay open until midnight, with the Grog Grotto limited to ages 21 and older after 8 p.m. Also note that hours could be limited during the soft opening as the bar and restaurant are fine-tuned.

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The Week in Tiki (March 23, 2015): Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto about to open, new Polynesian Village Resort merchandise

The Week in TikiThe latest news from Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort includes the pending opening of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, plus DVC and construction updates plus new resort merchandise. There’s also news on a possible Jungle Cruise restaurant coming to the Magic Kingdom, plus a preview of next month’s Miami Rum Festival. Weekly features spotlight artist N! Satterfield, Tikiman’s Polynesian Village Resort website, surf rockers The Intoxicators, and Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago. The rum of the week, El Dorado 12, is featured in the El Dorado Mai Tai.
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THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS (March 23-29, 2015)

Trader Sam’s soft opening imminent, new Polynesian Village merchandise

A rendering shows the reimagined Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian Village Resort

A rendering shows the reimagined Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian Village Resort, including a scaled-down water feature and recently added Tiki in the middle of the lobby.

There’s lots of activity at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort this week as the soft opening of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto approaches. On Monday, the long-awaited “Poly Tiki” appeared on top of the new fountain and rock formation in the Great Ceremonial House. And all week there have been sneak previews of both Trader Sam’s and the new Bora Bora Bungalows, both scheduled to officially open on Wednesday, April 1. Meanwhile, work continues frantically on the refurbished pool and patio outside the Great Ceremonial House.

Inside the massive lobby, which recently completed an extensive refurbishment (see our previous coverage), the resort’s signature logo Tiki made his appearance in the early a.m. hours Monday. It’s the last stage of the new rock waterfall centerpiece, as pictured in concept artwork released in the early stages of the project (see above). Though Polynesian Resort purists have bemoaned the loss of the original plantscape and water fall, which dominated the entire lobby, many are calling the new design much more friendly and inviting. In fact, the final touch will be the addition of leis draped across the Poly Tiki’s arms, welcoming visitors to his refurbished domain.

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The Week in Tiki (March 16, 2015): Miller to remain in Big Apple; Tiki weekenders sell out in Chicago, N.J.

The Week in TikiThis week’s top story is the sellout of two upcoming events: the Chicago Area Tiki Tour, and the Vintage Tiki Weekend in Wildwood, N.J. Also, tickets for Tiki Kon in the Pacific Northwest are selling fast. We have news on award-winning Tiki barman Brian Miller’s decision to remain in New York City. Plus, get updates on Aloha Isle and Sunshine Tree Terrace swapping locations in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland, and a Tiki disappointment in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s historic bars contest. Our weekly features spotlight artist Eric October, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s new website, the music of Gold Dust Lounge, and the Tambu Lounge at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The rum of the week, Mount Gay Eclipse, is featured in the The Monaco cocktail.
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LAST WEEK IN REVIEW (March 9-15, 2015)

Quick hits: Miller staying in NYC, N.J. and Chicago Tiki events sell out

Brian Miller (left) and Cabell Tomlinson (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City) mix up the Pain Reliever.

Brian Miller (left) and Cabell Tomlinson (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City) mix up the Pain Reliever during The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown on South Beach. (Photo by The Atomic Grog)

New York City’s Tiki scene is breathing a collective sigh of relief this week after award-winning bartender Brian Miller had a change of heart and decided to not make a move to the West Coast. After winning “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown” on Feb. 20 at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, the host of the popular Tiki Mondays With Miller events said he planned to migrate from the Big Apple to Los Angeles. However, in an e-mail received Sunday, the Tiki pirate said he said he now realizes that “New York City is where I want to be right now.” Miller’s next Tiki Monday shindig is set for April 20 at Pouring Ribbons. You can also catch Miller pouring cocktails and presenting a symposium June 10-14 at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale.
[Atomic Grog preview]

* Related story: The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown full coverage, photos, recipes

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The Week in Tiki (March 9, 2015): Historic bars compete, Vintage Tiki Weekend announced, Rum Fest at The Mai-Kai

The Week in TikiNews this week includes a historic bars contest that features four famous Tiki establishments, plus a sneak peak at The Hukilau’s 2015 event mug. We preview a party at the Tonga Hut, ticket sales for Tiki Kon, and Dapper Day at Disney World. A new event joins the Tiki calendar: Vintage Tiki Weekend at the historic Caribbean Motel in Wildwood, N.J. Also announced was a swap in Dole Whip locations at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, plus the Miami Rum Festival’s annual pilgrimage to The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Our weekly features spotlight artist Crazy Al Evans, TheTikiChick.com, classic exotica artist Gene Rains, and acclaimed Tiki bar Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. The rum of the week, Plantation Jamaican, is featured in the Red Tide cocktail.
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THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS (March 9-15, 2015)

Historic Bars Tournament features four classic Tiki establishments

Every year, there are more and more alternatives to college basketball’s bracket mania known as March Madness. Simply match up a long list of anything in multiples of four, and see who makes the Sweet 16 and Final Four. This year, fans of Tiki and its classic watering holes can vote for their favorites during The Big Tap: 2015 Historic Bars Tournament.

A vintage photo of The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale

A vintage photo of The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. (From Facebook)

The tourney, which kicked off Monday (March 9), is being run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has lined up 32 historic bars and matched them up in brackets. Among those in the competition are four historic Tiki temples: The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), Bali Hai (San Diego), La Mariana (Honolulu), and the Tonga Room (San Francisco). The Mai-Kai, a South Florida institution, was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places.
* Previous Atomic Grog coverage

The four are among the oldest Tiki establishments in the country. The Tonga Room opened in 1945, La Mariana and Bali Hai in 1955, and The Mai-Kai in 1956. Make your vote count in this single-elimination tournament. The voting period for each round ends at 8 a.m. Eastern time on Fridays (March 13, 20, 27 and April 3). There will be prizes for the bars that advance to the Sweet 16 and beyond. Besides the Tiki bars, there are dive bars, sports bars, and many historic watering holes that date back as far as 1733.

The entries were culled from the Historic Bars series, which started last June on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s blog, PreservationNation. These were determined through the site’s own research, plus public submissions from Facebook and Twitter followers. They then narrowed it down to 32 for the bracket.

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Disney World rushes to finish Polynesian Village Resort renovations, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto

Though an official announcement has not yet been made, fans of Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort are salivating at the prospects of the long-awaited Tiki bar Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto opening as early as the end of March.

See below: Recent photos of the Polynesian Village Resort construction, renovations
* See all our updates on the Polynesian refurbishment

A look across the second floor toward Kona Cafe. (Feb. 26, 2015)

A look across the second floor toward Kona Cafe. (Feb. 26, 2015)

The leading non-Disney authority on the Polynesian, Steve “Tikiman” Seifert, is predicting an opening of the East Coast’s version of Disneyland’s popular Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar as early as Thursday, March 26. This would coincide with the completion of much of the construction on the resort’s main pool, which has been undergoing a massive renovation since closing in July.

The reason for this rush to complete construction is the announced April 1 opening of the first phase of the resort’s Disney Vacation Club (DVC) timeshare units. On that date, the Polynesian Village will welcome the first guests to its 20 high-profile Bora Bora Bungalows, which were built over the water on Seven Seas Lagoon, off the beach on the east side of the resort. Also opening are some of the deluxe studio units in the Moorea and Pago Pago longhouses that have also been under renovation. These buildings were formerly known as Tahiti and Rapa Nui, but have now returned to their original names.

Construction work at the Polynesian, particularly around the pool and Trader Sam’s, seems to be moving at a rapid pace. Much of the work being done outdoors, though walled off, is in clear view of guests who have been sharing a steady stream of photos online. Seifert was there in late February, and he published a full report on his website with news on renovations and changes throughout the resort. He’s also posting photos and reports sent to him by guests almost daily on his Polynesian Resort Facebook page. Seifert also shared some news and answered questions on last week’s Enchanted Tiki Talk podcast. [Click to listen].

The service bar for Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, the roofed structure to the right, is being built on the back of the Great Ceremonial House.  (Feb. 26, 2015)

The service bar for Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, the roofed structure to the right, is being built on the back of the Great Ceremonial House. (Feb. 26, 2015)

The Atomic Grog also visited the Polynesian in late February, and we got our first look at the reimagined lobby of the Great Ceremonial House, as well as the massive work in progress. On the day we were there, there was a lot of activity around Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and the outdoor patio that the bar/restaurant will share with the neighboring counter-service restaurant, Captain Cook’s. Unfortunately, nobody has been able to get a peek behind the doors to see what magic Disney’s Imagineers have cooked up for guests of the immersive Tiki bar. Scroll down to see photos from last week, plus our December visit.

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The Week in Tiki (March 2, 2015): The Hukilau mug giveaway, Bacardi cocktail champ, $153,400 Tiki Room bird

The Week in TikiThis week’s news includes a contest to win the new event mug for The Hukilau 2015 by Tiki Diablo, plus a preview of a New York City cocktail event featuring the crew from Tiki Mondays With Miller. We also recap last week’s Legacy Cocktail Competition in Miami Beach sponsored by Bacardi, and an auction of Disney parks collectibles that netted $1.7 million. Our weekly features spotlight artist Robert Jimenez, Digitiki.com and The Quiet Village, exotic band Ixtahuele, and former Tiki hotspot The Castaways in Miami Beach. The rum of the week, Denizen white, is featured in the Rebel With a Cause cocktail.
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THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS (March 2-8, 2015)

The Hukilau mug giveaway Tuesday

The Hukilau

On Tuesday (March 3), The Hukilau will be unveiling a contest that will give participants a chance to win the official 2015 event mug by Tiki Diablo.

You must have a past mug (or mugs) from The Hukilau and an Instagram account to enter. Follow The Hukilau and check the Facebook page for more info.

The annual Polynesian Pop weekender will be held June 10-14 at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Musical guests and performers include Alika Lyman Group, The Intoxicators, Gold Dust Lounge, Pablus, Slip and the Spinouts, Kinky Waikiki, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, and King Kukulele. Symposium presenters are Arthur Dong, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Brian Miller, Domenic Priore, Jeff Chenault, plus Jon Bortles and Tiki Gardener.

Get your wristbands and symposium tickets now at TheHukilau.com before they sell out. The 14th annual Tiki weekender will also include two one-of-a-kind events: The Tiki Tower Takeover featuring Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), Paul McGee (Lost Lake, Chicago) and Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City) mixing up special cocktails in the Pier Top Lounge. And a special “Three Hour Tour” cruise with actress Dawn Wells, aka Mary Ann on classic TV show Gilligan’s Island.

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