NOTE: The Hukilau 2020 was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. A series of online events was held in its place. The 2019 recap below was posted before the pandemic. The Hukilau is returning to a live format in September 2021.
The Hukilau’s 2020 entertainment lineup will be announced on Feb. 3, when event tickets and passes go on sale for the 19th annual Tiki weekender June 3-7 in Fort Lauderdale. While The Mai-Kai remains the nerve center of the Polynesian Pop celebration for the 18th straight year, most of the festivities will be centered at the B Ocean Resort on Fort Lauderdale Beach.
After five years as host hotel, the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina closed for a years-long refurbishment and re-imagining on the day after The Hukilau 2019. To give you a preview of what you can expect during the whirlwind weekend, following is a look back at last year’s festivities. While this Top 10 list is nowhere near complete in capturing the diversity of activities that encompassed the five-day bash, it offers a snapshot of some of the more memorable moments.
Mahalo to the venues, the organizers, all the participants and (especially) all the villagers who attended. Special thanks to those who provided photos for use below. Here’s a sampling of what we enjoyed, in no particular order …
What city best exemplifies the recent explosive growth of Tiki bars and Polynesian Pop culture? A strong argument could be made for Atlanta, which has been blessed with at least three new exotic cocktail destinations since 2015. Now, in just its second year, the Tiki weekender known as Inuhele has greatly expanded to include three days of bar-hopping, panels, vendors, bands, demos and more geared to the area’s burgeoning scene.
But things really got interesting when the Tiki and craft cocktail revivals merged, creating a hot trend among bartenders and owners worldwide. Atlanta caught the bug, resulting in the opening of The S.O.S. in Decatur, just northeast of Atlanta, in 2015. In 2018, the Virginia Highland neighborhood of Atlanta saw the opening of Tiki Iniki, the first stateside franchise location of the concept created by Todd and Michele Rundgren in Hawaii. And while not truly traditional, Match Bamboo Lounge offers spirited aloha in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood.
All this activity spurred Horror in Clay’s Jonathan and Allison Chaffin to organize the first Atlanta Tiki Homebar Tour, dubbed Inuhele (for “cocktail journey”) on Feb. 24, 2018. It was a small affair with 50+ people taking a bus tour of local home bars for a day, then concluding the night at Trader Vic’s.
* See photos from 2018
For 2019, the Chaffins are taking Inuhele to the next level as a full-blown weekender on the same scale as other mid-sized Tiki events such as the pioneering Tiki Kon in the Pacific Northwest, which also started as a home bar tour nearly two decades ago. The Marriott Century Center has been secured as the host hotel, and the Chaffins promise “a weekend of bar hopping, panels, bands, demos, sharing of ideas, and most importantly community building.”
The community definitely came together to help make such an ambitious undertaking possible. Among the more than a dozen sponsors are:
* Tiki Tango, host of the “Tiki Hop-on Hop off Shuttle” and Friday night party.
* Spiribam rum specialists, presenting sponsor of the home bar bus.
* BG Reynolds, the premium bar syrups purveyor and man behind the “Iron TikiTender On Tour” event that will take place on Saturday at the Marriott.
* Royer Corp., the popular swizzle stick manufacturer known for its cutting-edge designs.
>>> See all the sponsors here
Friday kickoff and bar crawl: Events at the Marriott Century Center include classes and meet-ups, the trading post, a DJ dance party with Brother Cleve, plus more. Meanwhile, a bus will shuttle guests to Trader Vic’s, Tiki Tango, and Tiki Iniki all evening.
Updated Feb. 8, 2018
The Hukilau gave its loyal fans a New Year’s treat by announcing an expanded lineup for the East Coast’s largest Tiki-themed event, giving its regular “villagers” early access and discounts on tickets. The general public can now join the party at the 17th annual mash-up of Polynesian Pop and cocktail culture.
Here are the highlights of the announcement, sent via email and posted on the official website. I also spoke directly with the event’s owner and co-organizer, Richard Oneslager, to get all the scoop on 2018. NEW: As of Feb. 8, this preview is now updated with the late January announcement.
Party like it’s 2009: Los Straitjackets (left) will headline The Hukilau for a second time, while The Intoxicators will make their 13th appearance at the Tiki party in Fort Lauderdale. (Photos from The Hukilau 2009)
PREVIEW: The Hukilau 2018 highlights
* MUSIC: More headlining bands. The 2018 event will include some of the world’s top surf and exotica bands, including Los Straitjackets, The Madeira, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quintet and The Martian Denny Orchestra. Villagers will also be thrilled to see the return of The Intoxicators, who missed 2017 after 12 straight appearances. Other performers include The Exotics, Black Flamingos, Czarna Wolgastar, The Royal Pacifics, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, and The Hukilau’s one and only emcee during its previous 16 years, the ubiquitous King Kukulele. Look for more bands to be announced, along with special guest DJs. Bands will perform on all five days in various venues. [More details below]
* BARS: 12 Tiki pop-ups. Seven of last year’s 10 acclaimed bar teams are returning, joined by five new Tiki-themed pop-ups from around the world setting up shop all over Pier 66 at special events, tastings, and classes. Due to popular demand, a second afternoon pool party with complimentary cocktails has been added to the schedule. Back for more more rum and cocktails are bartenders from Dirty Dick (Paris), Flask & Cannon (Jacksonville), Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh), Nu Lounge Bar (Italy), Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago), Pagan Idol (San Francisco), and S.O.S. Tiki Bar (Atlanta). Coming on board for 2018 are Death Or Glory (Delray Beach), Foundation Bar (Milwaukee), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Tonga Hut (Los Angeles), and Trailer Happiness (London). [More details below]
Rum ambassador Ian Burrell presents a symposium at The Hukilau 2017 (Atomic Grog photo). He’ll be joined in 2018 by cocktail pioneer and influential musician/DJ Brother Cleve (Photo by Audrey Harrer).
* INDUSTRY VIPS: Cocktail influencer makes debut. Boston’s Brother Cleve will bring his vast knowledge of cocktails and music to The Hukilau for the first time. This prime mover of the craft cocktail scene in the 1990s and former member of the groundbreaking band Combustible Edison will present a symposium, make a special DJ appearance, and also have his own bar in the Tiki Tower Takeover event. In addition, rum ambassador Ian Burrell returns from London for a second straight year to host a symposium, two cocktail classes and a special rum tasting. [More details below]
* TIKI TOWER TAKEOVER: Signature cocktail party expands, returns for Round 4. Held on Thursday night in the hotel’s revolving Pier Top Lounge, the fourth edition of one of Tiki’s most exclusive events is likely to sell out just as fast as the previous three. Tickets are limited to passholders, so act now. The lineup will grow from four to five pop-ups (featuring six different bar teams), including returning participants Three Dots and a Dash and Daniele Dalla Pola of Nu Lounge Bar. Scotty Schuder of Dirty Dick also returns, teaming up with Pagan Idol for a special two-bar mash-up. The final two pop-ups will feature the craft cocktail stylings of Brother Cleve and the crew from the U.K.’s Trailer Happiness. [More details below]
* MERCHANDISE: Works of top Tiki artists on display. The official artists for The Hukilau 2018 are Joe Vitale and Donella Vitale, whose work can already been seen on the website and promo artwork. The couple is based in Orlando, where they both work for Disney in addition to being among the most recognizable artists of the Tiki revival. Fun fact: The Vitales are among a select few who have attended The Hukilau all 16 years, along with emcee King Kukulele and co-founder Tim “Swanky” Glazner. Villagers will get first shot at the event merchandise, including the 17th annual mug produced by Eekum Bookum. There will also be special items for some villagers, including a South Seas passholder pendant by Crazy Al Evans.
Bar teams from Pittsburgh’s Hidden Harbor (left) and Atlanta’s S.O.S. Tiki Bar will return for this year’s expanded Rum Island Pool Party at The Hukilau 2018. (Atomic Grog photos)
* ENHANCEMENTS: Feedback from villagers. The Hukilau listened to its attendees and will implement quite a few changes: Extended hours and a second pool party on Saturday (in addition to Friday) including live music, more bars and bands (see above), a “Villager’s Lounge” tent to “meet and hang with old friends and new,” a party featuring all exotica music, and more food trucks.
* MORE SPECIAL EVENTS: Symposiums, Medusirena Marina swimshows. Symposiums, craft workshops, Okole Maluna cocktail classes, hula lessons, plus more new additions were announced in late January. These include three swimshows featuring Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in her home at the nearby Wreck Bar in the B Ocean Resort, plus symposiums on Disney’s Trader Sam’s Tiki bar concept and the heyday of Tiki on television. Craft workshops will feature a trio of noted Tiki artists, while cocktail classes will include bartenders and experts from across the country. UPDATE:The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney imagineer, Tiki on TV
As The Hukilau’s organizers and villagers gear up for the 16th annual Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale on June 7-11, we have updated the schedule with a new late-night event and definitive band and DJ lineup. In addition, a special drawing and silent auction that will benefit two South Florida charities has just been announced.
The schedule now includes a late-night Blue Hawaii Party featuring DJ James Brown’s Sweat at the host Pier 66 hotel to give attendees another option on Thursday night. Also look for a showing of the classic Elvis movie of the same name near the pool on the hotel’s Royal Palm Lawn. The South Florida DJ, along with Tampa’s DJ Lounge Laura Taylor, have also been added to other events throughout the five days of festivities. Saturday’s final band lineup for The Mai-Kai is also posted.
We’ve also noted the sold-out events, which now include Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s Wednesday night swimshow, Will Anders’ craft symposium and the Three Dots and a Dash cocktail class on Saturday. UPDATEDCheck the daily schedule below | Official website
The Hukilau has also launched a new initiative to give back to the Florida hospitality community and aid endangered coral reefs . It’s called “See Aloha,” according to organizers, “because we believe that in life you find what you’re looking for, and we choose to see the aloha that is around us everywhere.” The Hukilau is making an initial donation of $2,000 and asking villagers to help the cause and at the same time enter a drawing for some outstanding prizes.
The prizes in the drawing include Mai-Kai gift certificates, bottles of sponsor rums, and passes to The Hukilau 2018. The grand prize is a collection of eight different Tiki mugs from some of The Hukilau’s guest pop-up bars, plus serial #1 of this year’s event mug from Tiki Tony and Eekum Bookum.
In addition, Crazy Al Evans is contributing an amazing collection of art pieces from his Tiki artist friends that will be up for bid at a silent auction. You can also bid to win a Mystery Drink presentation at The Mai-Kai from none other than “Mystery Guy” Crazy Al himself.
The beneficiaries are the education foundation of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Miami Dade Reef Guard Association. The education foundation works with more than 200 Florida high schools to prepare students for a career in hospitality. Reef Guard’s mooring buoy plan has aided the installation and maintenance of 42 mooring buoys to date, allowing divers and fisherman to enjoy the reefs without risking damage to them with an anchor. Villagers at Pier 66 should check the daily schedule, on-site signage and official announcements for more on the drawing and silent auction.
Here’s another official glassware sneak preview fromm Tiki Tony:
Updated May 20, 2017: New band added, sneak peek at official mug and glassware
A new band has been added to the entertainment lineup: The Hula Girls from Southern California. A veteran of The Hukilau 2013 and a fixture on the Tiki event circuit, this up-tempo “hulabilly” band mashes up hapa-haole, Tiki and surf music and filters it through a late 1950s and early ’60s rockabilly and rock ‘n roll soundscape. Unfortunately The Dead Rocks will not be able to make the trip from Brazil due to travel and visa issues. Look for the acclaimed instrumental surf trio at The Hukilau 2018.
The official event mug by Tiki Tony is based on the infamous shrunken skulls in The Mai-Kai’s Samoa dining room. It’s being produced by John Mulder and Eekum Bookum. Tony is also working on glassware and T-shirt designs.
Updated April 28, 2017: New website launches, more bands and cocktail classes, full schedule released
The Hukilau’s all-new website went live last week with full details on the 16th annual gathering of the Tiki tribe in Fort Lauderdale. Highlights include more music and entertainment, more Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes, the full lineup of bands and pop-up bars participating in Friday night’s High Tide party, more bars added to the Rum Island Pool Party, a new symposium, and a detailed daily schedule.
Here’s a rundown on everything new that we gleaned from the totally redesigned and updated website. Keep an eye out for even more info to be announced in the coming weeks.
HIGH TIDE PARTY: The full lineup and details on the Friday night main event were officially annouced. The music will include a new addition, Slip and the Spinouts, along with an outstanding bill of previously announced bands:Stolen Idols (Tampa), The Mermers (Gainesville), Surfrajettes (Canada), and a new addition, The Hula Girls. Also performing will be burlesque queen Angie Pontani. And the icing on the cake is the announcement of eight guest pop-up bars, giving the party even more bang for your buck: Flask & Cannon (Jacksonville), Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh), Pagan Idol (San Francisco), the Sip ‘n Dip Tiki Lounge (Great Falls, Mont.), Slowly Shirley (New York City), S.O.S. Tiki Bar (Atlanta), Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago), and UnderTow (Phoenix). All are also participating in the Tiki Tower Takeover and/or Rum Island Pool Party (see below). In addition to full access for multi-day passholders, the party is also now available for day guests for $99 (including one cocktail from each bar). There’s also a new Surf’s Up Friday/Saturday Combo pass ($129) that includes the party, plus Saturday’s Tiki Treasures Bazaar (including rum tastings) and main event at The Mai-Kai. The combo pass also includes passholder prices for symposiums and cocktail classes.