Arizona Tiki Oasis ushers in the return of live weekend conventions

A proper modern Tiki weekender requires human interaction – from the tastes and smells of rum and craft cocktails, to the tactile hands-on experiences with artists and vendors, to the exciting dynamics of group participation in educational symposiums and enjoyment of unique entertainment. All of this came to a crashing halt – or was altered radically – one year ago by the coronavirus pandemic.

Arizona Tiki Oasis 2021

Virtual events continue to be enriching and enjoyable, and quite a few smaller gatherings have returned over the months as society slowly crawls ahead with safe, socially-distanced protocols. We’ve documented many of them on The Tiki Times, our constantly updated guide to online and real-life happenings.

One thing missing, however, was the glue that holds the scene together. The quintessential Tiki experience can happen only at multi-day weekend conventions that have become annual highlights for thousands of followers. They plan their annual calendars around them, sometimes traveling halfway around the world to attend. But most of the major events either scaled back drastically (Tiki Oasis), went totally virtual (The Hukilau), or were canceled altogether (Tiki Kon).
Past coverage: Recap of 2020 events

Now, with vaccinations becoming widespread in the United States and some light visible at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to get back to basics with a good old fashioned Tiki bash. And who better to kick off the return to “normal” than Baby Doe and Otto von Stroheim, the power couple responsible for inventing the format two decades ago amid the burgeoning Tiki revival in Southern California.

Baby Doe and Otto von Stroheim, founders and producers of Arizona Tiki Oasis. (Official photo)
Baby Doe and Otto von Stroheim, founders and producers of Arizona Tiki Oasis. (Official photo)

While their flagship Tiki Oasis won’t return until the summer, this spring provided the perfect platform to re-launch in-person events on a large scale with last weekend’s Arizona Tiki Oasis at Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale. By all accounts, the second edition of the full festival went off without a hitch April 22-25 and was a rousing success.

It was exciting to watch, even from afar via social media, as Tiki’s movers and shakers once again gathered in appreciation of not just the thriving subculture, but also in celebration of coming out of our cocoons for real social interaction. The pent-up demand for such an event was clear and immediate: Attendees filled every room in the resort.

Jump below: Arizona Tiki Oasis social media coverage
More Tiki weekenders in 2021-22

For the first time in more than a year, we saw author Sven Kirsten back behind the lectern for a sold-out seminar on Tiki culture (From Don to Steve to The Mai-Kai: The Enigma of the Tahitian Cannibal Carvings). Other seminar speakers included historian Mike Skinner, collector Jason T. Smith, and author CJ Cook.

The Arizona Tiki Oasis 2021 limited edition mug by Shag
The Arizona Tiki Oasis 2021 limited edition mug by Shag.

There were rum and spirits tastings with local tropical oasis Hula’s Modern Tiki, plus tours of Scottsdale’s mid-century architecture and culture. Mixologist Tiki Lindy provided pro tips for home enthusiasts. Ukulele lessons, pool parties and Saturday night’s Tiki Tiki Ho-Ho Luau were other highlights. Many events were held outdoors under Arizona’s flawless spring skies, allowing maximal fun with minimal risk. The website says guests could enjoy “a wide range of resort activities while sipping tropical cocktails, wearing your festive aloha wear and snazzy masks.” It also provided a full page of health and safety protocols.

A comment on the Arizona Tiki Oasis Facebook group summed up the general attitude: “Everyone was so respectful of distancing and masking in the public areas while moving through the hotel. Most everyone I encountered shared their vaccinated status.”

Any Tiki Oasis event is sure to have a star-studded assortment of modern artists, and Arizona Tiki Oasis 2021 was no exception. The three-day Pop-Up Art Exhibit featured the works of 25 of today’s top artists: Atomikitty, Benjamin Burch, Big Toe (Tom Laura), CacTai, Candy, Corey Smith, Diane Bombshelter, Doug Horne, Harry Decker, James Owen, Jason Straughan (The Boozy Doodler), Jon Arvizu, Justin Peterson, Kymm Bang, Liana Hee, Mike Maas, Megan Besmirched, Mookie Sato, Odd Rodney, Sara Ivey (Poison Ivey Art), Sheryl Schroeder, Susana Vestige, Tiki Tony, Tom Cooper, and Velvetiki.

The entertainment lineup featured music from The Hypnotiques, The Satin Dollz, Moonlight Magic, and El Vez, plus an assortment of noted DJs and burlesque performers. The vendor marketplace was filled with more than 40 “crafters, makers, and traders” selling Tiki mugs, carvings, jewelry, vintage clothing, and much more. Sponsors included Trader Vic’s plus rum brands Tanduay, Mount Gay, The Real McCoy, Pusser’s and Deadhead.
* Official event program

Hotel Valley Ho, yesterday and today. (From AZTikiOasis.com)
Hotel Valley Ho, yesterday and today. (From AZTikiOasis.com)

The inaugural island lifestyle party in the middle of the desert was held April 12-14, 2019, the first expansion of the Tiki Oasis brand outside of California in 19 years. Scottsdale and the Hotel Valley Ho were the perfect setting: a vintage hotel opened in 1956 and a town rich with mid-century architecture. Author and architect Alan Hess called the hotel “one of the best-preserved mid-century hotels in the country.”

With the pandemic shutting down everything in April 2020, the second Arizona Tiki Oasis was pushed to the fall, then eventually scrubbed and folded into a small gathering Oct. 30-Nov. 1 called Hotel Valley Ho Tiki Weekend.

Arizona Tiki Oasis, which directly benefits the Arizona Preservation Foundation, is designed as a more laid-back alternative to the non-stop party in San Diego. Its stated core values include “equality, diversity and inclusion” along with “sustainable practices” that support the health of the planet. Amid growing sensitivities about cultural appropriation, Tiki Oasis also states its mission clearly as promoting education, and sharing ideas and knowledge. “We believe in historic preservation of American Pop Culture through the lens of modern day values,” the website states.

Look for a third, hopefully even more expansive, Arizona Tiki Oasis in 2022.

Jump below: Latest schedule for all the major annual events

Arizona Tiki Oasis: Social media coverage

Inside the Desert Oasis Room podcast
* Listen: Live from Arizona Tiki Oasis

Official sites
* Facebook: Page | Group
* Instagram: @tikioasis | @tiki_oasis_marketplace
* Twitter
Press coverage: Popular tiki event in Scottsdale next weekend

MORE UPCOMING TIKI WEEKENDERS

Here’s the latest info at press time on the multi-day Tiki events scheduled for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022. Bookmark The Tiki Times calendar and check back for updates. Note that organizers are typically honoring previously purchased tickets and merchandise for events that were canceled or postponed. Check with each individual event for more details.

Tiki Oasis 2021
July 28-Aug. 1 – Tiki Oasis at the Town & Country resort in San Diego, Calif. | Past coverage – The granddaddy of all modern Tiki events (est. 2001) celebrates its 20th anniversary a year late, but who’s counting? Baby Doe and Otto promise “five nights and four days of live music, pool lounging, fashion shows, swanky suites, sunset dinners, disc jockeys, fire-pits, art exhibits, educational seminars, a busting Tiki Marketplace, wedding options, tropical cocktails curated by top mixologists and so much more!” The big news is a new venue: The Town & Country, built in 1953 as a roadside lodge, has grown into a full-service resort and convention hotel but still retains its nostalgic mid-century roots. The abbreviated 2020 version of the event was held in August at the sprawling Paradise Point resort with its bungalow-style rooms better suited to the pandemic. This followed 14 memorable years at the Crowne Plaza (formerly the Hanalei Hotel) in San Diego. (The event spent its five formative years at the Caliente Tropics in Palm Springs.) Like years past, look for Tiki Oasis to kick off with a Wednesday night party at the historic Bali Hai restaurant, another mid-century marvel that dates back to 1953. No matter the venue, the return of a fully functioning Tiki Oasis will likely mark a return to normalcy for all the fans who had to get their fix via the many virtual events streamed to the Tiki Oasis TV page on YouTube.
Social media updates: Facebook page and group | Instagram | Twitter

Ohana: Luau At The Lake
Sept. 16-19 – Ohana: Luau At The Lake at The Tiki Resort, Lake George, N.Y. | Past coverage – After going fully virtual last June, the long-running flagship event of the nonprofit Fraternal Order Of Moai returns for a 12th gathering of the tribe in upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains. The FOM promise “fun, friendship, classic cocktails, live music, DJs, contests, vendors, auctions, prizes, freebies, food and a live Polynesian show” at the 1950s-era mom & pop motel that retains its retro architecture and vibe. Established in 2009, Ohana is the largest event and fundraiser for the social club that not only celebrates Polynesian Pop culture, but also devotes much time and energy to its preservation and appreciation. Plans call for Ohana to return to its normal June timeframe in 2022.
Social media updates: Facebook page | Twitter

The Hukilau
TBA – The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale | Past coverage – The 19th edition of the East Coast’s largest and oldest Tiki weekender is being planned for the fall, though no official announcement has been made. The logistics are complicated by the state of The Mai-Kai, the historic restaurant that has been home base of the event since it moved from Atlanta in year two in 2003. The beloved Tiki temple has been closed since October after a massive roof collapse in its back of house, though it has been actively selling its popular cocktails to go, and hosting special events in its parking lot in the months since. These included the annual Hulaween in October, the 64th anniversary party in December, and the inaugural Tiki marketplace on April 17. The owners promise more events and have vowed to reopen when repairs are made, but the timetable could be extensive. Regardless of the restaurant’s opening date, The Mai-Kai is expcted to be part of The Hukilau in some fashion, along with a host hotel on the Fort Lauderdale beachfront. The 2020 edition last June was completely virtual, but we hope to have more details soon on a return to a live format.
Social media updates: Facebook page and group | Instagram

Oct. 1-3 – Tiki Fever at the Bahi Hut and Golden Host Resort in Sarasota, Fla. This event may be the new kid on the block with just the inaugural October 2019 gathering under its belt, but the host venues definitely have a rich history. Established in 1954, the Bahi Hut is the oldest Tiki bar in Florida, pre-dating The Mai-Kai by two years. It has been lovingly restored over the past several years and features new carvings, mugs, cocktails and a growing following among Tikiphiles. Also newly renovated, the adjacent Golden Host features a mid-century modern vibe and classic roadside Florida design. After canceling the 2020 event, Tiki Fever is back with an intimate, community-oriented gathering featuring a room crawl, music and dancing, and vendor marketplace.

Tiki Caliente

Oct. 14-17 – Tiki Caliente at the Caliente Tropics in Palm Springs, Calif. | Past coverage – Typically held in May, this ode to Tiki in the mid-century modern capital of the world was forced to cancel in 2020 and move to the fall in 2021, absorbing the sister event Circa Caliente in the process. Expect live music, seminars, the popular room crawl and pool parties, art shows, vendors and more at the Caliente Tropics resort (built in 1964), home of the original Tiki Oasis and arguably the most historic and period-accurate home of any of today’s Tiki events. This will be the 12th edition of the intimate event (currently capped at around 600 people), which hosted its first weekenders in 2008 and 2010. The 2021 event is sold out, host/founder Rory Snyder says, because he wants to keep the event small and safe while also accommodating all “loyalty” members who have reserved rooms and purchased tickets. In a Facebook video, he didn’t offer any specifics on entertainment but said to look for many of the same bands originally scheduled for 2020. Snyder, who also owns The Reef bar and restaurant inside the Caliente Tropics, added that he’s hoping to bring both events back to their original schedules in 2022.

Jan 28-30, 2022 – Inuhele: Atlanta’s Tiki Weekend. | Past coverage – This up-and-coming event is taking 2021 off in preparation for its fourth weekend gathering in the city that has become the Deep South’s hotbed for Tiki. Organized by mug and glassware purveyors Jonathan and Allison Chaffin (Horror in Clay), Inuhele had humble beginnings in February 2018 as a small home bar tour and evening at the vintage Trader Vic’s in the Atlanta Hilton (est. 1976). The event expanded exponentially in February 2019 to include a host hotel, three days of bar-hopping, panels, vendors, bands, bartending competition, and more. Last year’s edition was held March 6-8, just before the pandemic sent the world into a tailspin. For many, it was the last event they attended, so the return of Inuhele in early 2022 will hopefully mark the beginning of a new normal. The Chafins are currently looking for volunteers, vendors, presenters and sponsors. The only major change: The home bar tour has been split off into a separate event, scheduled for Sept. 25, 2021.
Social media updates: Facebook page and group | Instagram | Twitter

July 1-3, 2022 – Tiki Kon in Portland, Ore. | Past coverage – After going dark for two years due to the pandemic, the premiere event in the Pacific Northwest will return full-throttle next summer to Portland’s DoubleTree by Hilton. A message on the website says: “Tiki Kon is a large social gathering with a full schedule of dining, drinking, dancing, and crowded spaces, with guests from around the world. It’s just not feasible or worthwhile to do it with social distancing and masking requirements in place, or if we have to slash capacity.” In the meantime, Greg Clapp and Justin DuPré, the event organizers since 2013, have kept the flame burning with streaming video and fundraising events, merchandise, and more. Tiki Kon started in 2003 as a home bar crawl before growing into one of the largest and most prestigious Tiki weekenders. Highlights include live music and entertainment, symposiums and cocktail classes, a vendor marketplace, fashion show, luau-style banquet, and more. The finale remains the home bar tour, the longest-running event of its kind in the world.
Social media updates: Facebook | Instagram

While these remain the key events on the calendar, we also encourage you to seek out regional and local events around the world as they’re announced. Bookmark our calendar below and never miss a date.

The Tiki Times online events calendar
UPDATES: The Tiki Times: Exclusive 2021 events guide
Check the calendar for the latest upcoming live and virtual events, now updated through the end of the year.

MORE ON THE ATOMIC GROG

Support Tiki bars now by visiting their online stores, contributing to fundraisers
UPDATES: Support Tiki bars by visiting their online stores
Get updates on closings and openings, plus the latest on mugs and merchandise, plus more resources.

PAST EVENT COVERAGE

The Year in Tiki 2020: Recap the top virtual and in-person events
The Year in Tiki 2020

Take a look back at the top happenings, featuring artwork and links plus photos and video.

Arizona Tiki Oasis brings Polynesian Pop party to the desert
Arizona Tiki Oasis brings Polynesian Pop party to the desert

Complete overview and recap of the inaugural island lifestyle party in the desert.

The Year in Tiki 2019: Recap all the top events with photos and video
The Year in Tiki 2019

Check out photos and video plus links and coverage of top happenings around the globe.

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