Approaching its 60th anniversary, Fort Lauderdale’s hallowed Mai-Kai got into the Halloween spirit with its eighth annual Hulaween party on Friday, Oct. 28. More than 100 costumed revelers packed The Molokai lounge for an evening of deadly tropical drinks and live music from Slip and the Spinouts. The highlight was the creepy and creative costume contest, a South Florida tradition.
See below: Exclusive Atomic Grog photo gallery
The event’s theme, “Curse of the Cannibals,” honored The Mai-Kai’s rich history as one of the world’s top Tiki bars and Polynesian restaurants (Critiki website users rank it No. 1 in the world). The iconic “three cannibals” logo has been a mainstay since the Dec. 28, 1956, opening.
During Hulaween, the fun is timeless as Slip Mahoney and his band ripped through three sets of roots rock and rockabilly hits from the past half-century. Always in the spirit of the event, Slip and his band joined the costumed hordes. Only at The Mai-Kai during Hulaween will you find Elvis performing on guitar and vocals with a Stormtrooper from Star Wars on bass and a SWAT team member on drums (Mahoney, Kristi Lÿnx and Jason Furman, respectively).
After eight years, Hulaween has become known for its laid-back party atmosphere amid the vintage nautical decor in The Molokai. This year, the weekly New Times newspaper ranked it as the No. 2 Halloween party in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Only the massive MoonFest ranked higher.
But Hulaween is still an intimate affair. Many guests arrived early, with special jungle exotica tunes (mahalo to Spyrate Radio) adding to the atmosphere of the fully-decorated bar. The Molokai girls were also in costume, though still wearing their signature sarongs (another Mai-Kai tradition that goes back to the mid-century era). Happy hour ran from 5 to 7, with most of the bar’s signature cocktails, from the Zombie to the Shrunken Skull, available at half-price. Just as popular were the bar’s classic Polynesian pupus, plus the new selection of sushi and signature tapas.
After happy hour, Slip and the Spinouts kicked out the jams, making their sixth Hulaween appearance. Partiers danced to the beat as the band covered everything from country-tinged rock ‘n’ roll to surf to blues. The band, which has been a fixture on the local scene for decades, is also known for its original tunes (Seven Nights to Rock, 13 Miles) that harken back to a vintage era.
Spotted in the crowd were many classic costumes, from Beetlejuice to E.T. as well as wacky originals. Zombie doctors mingled with cannibals, while Baron Boris von Frankenstein beamed himself back from the 1967 Mad Monster Party and Hannibal Lecter sipped potent Tiki cocktails. Yours truly conjured up the ghost of Don the Beachcomber, the Tiki bar pionner considered to be The Mai-Kai’s evolutionary forefather. [More photos on Facebook]
Appleton Rum was again the event sponsor, providing samples to partygoers and special prizes for the contest winners. The Zula cocktail was featured all night as a half-priced special and included a premium Appleton rum. You can find Appleton in dozens of drinks on the Mai-Kai’s rum-centric menu.
Once again, the contest winners reflected The Mai-Kai’s rum and Tiki roots while remaining suitably off-the-wall. General manager Kern Mattei and marketing director Pia Dahlquist where the hosts, as usual, emceeing the parade of nominees. The field was narrowed to five, who all received prizes. Appleton provided a T-shirt and other goodies to all of the finalists, including No. 5 (Elliott and E.T.) and No. 4 (Beetlejuice and Miss Argentina).
The top three all received cash prizes. The No. 3 finisher, The Mai-Kai Snowglobe, snagged $100. Earning $200 was the No. 2 costume, a very different portrayal of DC comics supervillain Harley Quinn. The top prize ($300 cash, a $50 Mai-Kai gift certificate, and a bottle of Appleton 12-year-old rum) was awarded to the Mai Tai and a Bottle of Rum, a whimsically themed couple’s costume. This was the pair’s second win in a row, following last year’s Zombie Headhunter and Head.
After the contest, Slip and the Spinouts rocked another set of classic tunes and got the dance floor moving as the party continued into its seventh hour. The Mai-Kai’s owner, Dave Levy, got into the Hulaween spirit and shared the mic with Slip on the Elvis favorite, Burning Love.
With a huge 60th anniversary customer appreciation party scheduled for Dec. 28, The Mai-Kai is gearing up for a busy season in recognition of six decades. Hulaween was just the first treat for the restaurant’s many longtime, loyal customers.
Hulaween 2016 photo gallery
(Click on thumbnails to see larger images or to view as slideshow)
Photos by The Atomic Grog and The Mai-Kai
The Atomic Grog’s Hulaween coverage
* 2016 preview: The Mai-Kai’s eighth annual Hulaween party is cursed by cannibals
* 2015 recap, photos: The undead get lively at The Mai-Kai’s seventh annual Hulaween
* 2014 recap, photos: A ghastly good time at The Mai-Kai’s sixth annual Hulaween party
* 2013 recap, photos: Partygoers raise hell at The Mai-Kai’s fifth annual Hulaween
* 2012 recap, photos: Hulaween was hoppin’ all night at The Mai-Kai
* See all the past Hulaween coverage
* More Hulaween photos on Facebook: 2011 | 2010 | 2009
More on The Atomic Grog
* ‘King Kai’ leads procession of new Tikis into The Mai-Kai
* Tour of The Mai-Kai’s mysterious bars and kitchen (with photos)
* The Okole Maluna Society: The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide