The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney Imagineer, Tiki on TV

An artist's rendering of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney World from Walt Disney Imagineering, and a photo from the grand opening in March 2015 (Atomic Grog photo)

Updated Feb. 8, 2018
Polynesian Pop has always been deeply ingrained in American culture, from Tiki’s mid-century heyday through today. This symbiotic relationship will be explored in colorful detail during special symposiums at The Hukilau, the 17th annual Tiki weekender happening June 6-10 in Fort Lauderdale.

Among the special presentations now on sale at TheHukilau.com are “Travel with Trader Sam” hosted by Disney Imagineer Kyle Barnes and “The Golden Age of Tiki and the South Pacific on Television” with film and video collector Ron Ferrell.

Disney's Kyle Barnes was art director of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney World and Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at Disneyland. He also oversaw the 2015 refurbishment of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort in Orlando. (Contributed photos)
Disney’s Kyle Barnes was art director of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney World and Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at Disneyland. He also oversaw the 2015 refurbishment of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Orlando (left). (Contributed photos)

The Hukilau: June 6-10, 2018, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
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Quick links: Tickets | Book hotel | Symposiums | Schedule
Previous story: The Hukilau 2018: More bands, more bars, more Tiki!

Guests who buy multi-day passes get first shot at these and other educational activities, including Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes and rum tastings, craft classes with noted artists, plus many other hands-on activities. Also on sale are tickets to the three aquatic performances by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of aquaticats at The Wreck Bar at the nearby B Ocean Resort.

Previously announced were symposiums by special guests including rum and cocktail luminaries Ian Burrell and Brother Cleve, craft classes with South Florida artists Tom Fowner and Will Anders, “go-go aerobics” with burlesque queen Angie Pontani, a mid-century makeup symposium, plus hula lessons. The symposiums and craft classes range from $10 to $25, with most priced at just $15. This is a reduction from years past intended to offset a slight rise in the price of passes, which run from $175 to $399.

Here’s a preview of the new symposiums and classes:

An artist's rendering of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney World from Walt Disney Imagineering, and a photo from the grand opening in March 2015 (Atomic Grog photo)
An artist’s rendering of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney World from Walt Disney Imagineering, and a photo from the grand opening in March 2015. (Atomic Grog photo)

* “Travel with Trader Sam” with Kyle Barnes (Friday, June 8): What made the Jungle Cruise’s head salesman venture beyond Adventureland? Why open his first cocktail outpost at the Disneyland resort? How did he land on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon at Walt Disney World? Veteran Walt Disney Imagineer Kyle Barnes will answer these questions and share rarely seen details from the design and development of both locations of Disney’s popular Tiki bar concept.
* Related: Say ‘Aloha’ to Disney’s revamped Polynesian resort
* On The Atomic Grog: Trader Sam’s profile | Kyle Barnes at Mahaloween 2014

* “The Golden Age of Tiki and the South Pacific on Television” with Ron Ferrell (Saturday, June 9): An exclusive look at how Polynesia was represented during the golden age of television. See clips and enjoy the commentary as Tikiphile and cinema fan Ferrell shares his collection of film and video of Tiki and Polynesian pop from Hollywood, TV shows, and commercials.

At The Hukilau 2017, villagers had the opportunity to participate in classes ranging from Tiki carving, to cocktails (with Chicago's Three Dots and a Dash), to rum tasting. (Photos by Heather McKean)
At The Hukilau 2017, villagers had the opportunity to participate in classes ranging from Tiki carving, to cocktails (with Chicago’s Three Dots and a Dash), to rum tasting. (Photos by Heather McKean)

Updates: The presentation “The Rise, The Fall, The Resurrection, The Redemption” by Boston-based music, Tiki and cocktail pioneer Brother Cleve will be held on Friday. Global rum ambassador Ian Burrell will host his symposium “Who’s Your Daddy? The Pina Colada Paternity Test” on Friday and a rare rum tasting on Saturday. Still to be added to the schedule: A Tiki history symposium in the works from Tim “Swanky” Glazner, author of Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, (2016).

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Event preview: The Hukilau keeps 20th century Tiki culture alive and thriving in the 21st century

Polynesian Pop enthusiasts from around the world will gather Wednesday through Sunday (June 10-14) in Fort Lauderdale for The Hukilau, the East Coast’s largest and longest-running celebration of all things Tiki. The event reaches new heights in its 14th year at the towering Pier 66 hotel with marquee events that include the country’s top Tiki cocktail barmen and actress Dawn Wells, aka Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island.

The Hukilau 2015

The Hukilau: June 10-14, 2015, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Special guest: Dawn Wells. Musical guests and performers: Alika Lyman Group, The Intoxicators, Gold Dust Lounge, Pablus, Slip and the Spinouts, Kinky Waikiki, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, King Kukulele, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Lila Starlet, DJ James Brown’s Sweat. Symposium presenters: Arthur Dong, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, Domenic Priore, Jeff Chenault, Jon Bortles and Tiki Gardener. Guest bartenders: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Brian Miller, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, Dean Hurst, the Straw Hat Barmen.
* Buy tickets, get more info at TheHukilau.com
* Latest updates: The Hukilau on Facebook | Twitter
* The Atomic Grog: The Week in Tiki

For a so-called fad that started in the 1930s and peaked in the mid-20th century, Polynesian Pop seems to be doing quite well 15 years into the 21st century. So what makes Tiki culture so enduring, and endearing?

“It’s really all about the escape,” said Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, an Alabama native who co-founded The Hukilau in 2002 in Atlanta and sagely moved it to Fort Lauderdale and its historic Polynesian palace, The Mai-Kai, in 2003. “Some of us live the lifestyle, but for so many others, they get to dress in island prints, make tropical cocktails and create an instant vacation. Tiki gives all of us a release from the hustle of everyday life.”

* See below: Sponsors and merchandise | Special events | The venues | Symposiums
Bands and performers | Tickets and schedule

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PBS stations say aloha this week to long-awaited documentary on Tiki culture

We got a sneak peek at The Hukilau in April 2012, then an exclusive premiere at The Mai-Kai during the 2013 edition of the Tiki event in Fort Lauderdale. Now, the rest of the world will be exposed to Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession, a documentary that traces the history of America’s love affair with exotic style and tells a fascinating story of pop culture.

Plastic Paradise: A Swingin' Trip Through America's Polynesian Obsession

Filmed at Tiki events, bars and restaurants across the country and produced by Miami’s award-winning commercial and documentary filmmakers Common Machine, Plastic Paradise has finally been released to PBS affiliates. It was commissioned by Miami affiliate WLRN, where it premieres this Wednesday (Sept. 18) at 8 p.m. It will air again on WLRN on Thursday at 2 a.m., Friday at 7 p.m., and Monday (Sept. 23) at 11 p.m. It will also be carried by WXEL in Palm Beach County beginning on Saturday (Sept. 21) at 8 p.m. WLRN’s Plastic Paradise page also lists air times on PBS stations in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois and Washington. It also encourages you to call your local PBS station if you want to see the documentary in your area.

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Hukilau rewind: A whirlwind weekend of tropical delights

* More photos and recaps: Facebook page | Facebook group
* Press coverage: Special audio feature and story from NPR | Broward New Times photos
* More coverage from The Atomic Grog
* Official photos from Go11 Media

The Hukilau

Hundreds of Tikiphiles from around the world gathered in Fort Lauderdale on April 19-22 for the 11th edition of the largest event on the U.S. East Coast dedicated to Polynesian Pop culture. It was a jam-packed four days of informative symposiums, live music, artists and vendors, and – of course – many tropical-themed cocktails.

Here’s a full recap with highlights and first-hand reports. Check back soon for more in-depth features on several of the symposiums, plus a special audio slideshow when all the photos are released.

The party actually started a day early on Wednesday, April 18, when early arrivals migrated to the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant for happy hour and a full evening spent reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. And with the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival holding its Tiki Time event that same evening, there were plenty of cocktail lovers in the house. Rum fest DJ Mike “Jetsetter” Jones provided the tunes in The Molokai bar and a large group enjoyed the authentic Polynesian dinner show, the longest running in the United States.

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Kevin Kidney named art director of new Tiki documentary filmed at The Hukilau

Related posts: 2012 Hukilau tickets on sale | Full Hukilau coverage
Artists shine at Walt Disney World’s 40th birthday party | More on Kevin Kidney

The creators of a new documentary on the rise, fall and resurgence of Tiki culture have announced that artist Kevin Kidney has been hired as art director.

Tiki enthusiasts from around the world gathered at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale during The Hukilau in June 2011. (Photo by Go11Media.com)
Tiki enthusiasts from around the world gathered at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale during The Hukilau in June 2011. (Photo by Go11Media.com)

Much of Plastic Paradise was filmed last June at The Hukilau and the historic Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, and there are plans to show a sneak preview during next year’s Polynesian Pop extravaganza, scheduled for April 19-22. Plastic Paradise is then slated to hit the festival circuit, followed by airings nationwide on PBS affiliates.

The documentary, an hour-long chronicle of Tiki culture, was commissioned by PBS. The filmmakers, known as Common Machine, had previously provided PBS with an award-winning film about Cuban artists living in Miami, Hecho a Mano: Creativity in Exile.
* Click here to see a preview of Plastic Paradise

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When rum-runners ruled South Florida

Official WLRN program site | PBS special series

There’s a fascinating new documentary airing this month on WLRN, the local PBS television station: Prohibition and the South Florida Connection. This one-hour film by award-winning journalist Steve Waxman chronicles a colorful and chaotic period of U.S. history with a special focus on South Florida’s role.

Through interviews, archival photos and video, the program takes an in-depth look at the region’s relationship with rum importers from the Bahamas, along with the culture of profits and crime that defined this infamous era. From Al Capone to local speakeasies to the corrupt police, it reveals a wanton yet endearing chapter of South Florida history.

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