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

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

The Week in Tiki (May 4-10, 2015): The Hukilau news and updates, plus summer Tiki festival season kicks off

The Week in Tiki The summer Tiki event season is heating up, and we have the latest news on The Hukilau coming to Fort Lauderdale in June, plus updates on this month’s Tiki Caliente. There’s also news on Tiki Oasis tickets and the just-announced Hot Rod Hula Hop, plus the scoop on the temporary closing of the Tiki-Ti. Weekly features spotlight artist Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker, A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge blog, acclaimed lounge band Martini Kings, and the vintage Trader Vic’s location in Atlanta. The rum of the week, The Real McCoy 3, is featured in the Vicious Virgin #3.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events

The Hukilau gears up for 14th annual Tiki weekender, exclusive events

With the 30-day countdown for the East Coast’s premiere Tiki weekender quickly approaching, organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White has released a flurry of news and information about The Hukilau, coming June 10-14 to Fort Lauderdale. Here are the latest updates on the event, which will be headquartered for the first time at the historic Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel:

The four different glazes of The Hukilau's official 2015 mug by Tiki Diablo
The four different glazes of The Hukilau’s official 2015 mug by Tiki Diablo.

* Photos of all four glazes of the 2015 event mug by Tiki Diablo have been released. A limited run of 400 mugs will be produced, 100 per glaze. The four styles are Ocean, Fire, Sand and Volcano. The mug was inspired and adapted from a design by artist Dave “Basement Kahuna” Wolfe. Tiki Diablo, aka Southern California artist Daniel Gallardo, is an in-demand craftsman and mug designer whose past projects include The Hukilau 2012 mug and a special 2014 Mai-Kai mug. Also look for pendants based on the mug to be available during an upcoming pre-sale. To reserve The Hukilau mug, email christie@thehukilau.com. Coming soon: More info on other merchandise available at the event.

* Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of aquaticats will perform two special swim shows at the nearby B Ocean Resort for attendees of The Hukilau only. These will be in addition to the regular Friday and Saturday shows at 6:30 p.m. that can be viewed from the resort’s historic Wreck Bar. The exclusive new shows at the former Yankee Clipper hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 10, and 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, White said. To ensure clear sightlines for everyone, The Wreck Bar will not be filled beyond its seated capacity. Tickets for the additional mermaid shows are $10 each and are on sale now.

The Tiki Tower Takeover team, clockwise from left: Beachbum Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee and Brian Miller
The Tiki Tower Takeover team, clockwise from left: Beachbum Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee and Brian Miller.

* The highest-level event tickets have sold out. Big Kahuna passes – which includes admission to all five days, not including symposiums and special events – are no longer available. But you can still pick up an Aloha Pass (Thursday-Sunday) and Luau Pass (Friday-Sunday), or single-day tickets. Buy tickets now before they sell out. Big Kahuna, Aloha and Luau passholders will also receive swag bags containing an exclusive commemorative coffee mug, White said. If you plan on attending, it’s also a good idea to book a hotel room sooner rather than later. Also sold out is the first Saturday night dinner show at The Mai-Kai, the 58-year-old Polynesian palace that’s the nerve center of the event. You can still get into the second seating to see the famous Polynesian Islander Revue (est. 1961), the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. Call The Mai-Kai at (954) 563-3272 to make reservations.

* Also likely to sell out are two special events that you won’t find anywhere outside of The Hukilau. On Thursday, June 11, guests will be able to enjoy a one-of-a-kind happy hour in the 17th floor Pier 66 revolving cocktail lounge overlooking Fort Lauderdale Beach. The Tiki Tower Takeover will feature four of the country’s most acclaimed Tiki cocktail masters together in one room, personally mixing up their own signature drinks. Attendees can enjoy full-sized, fully garnished cocktails from Paul McGee (Lost Lake, Chicago), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), and Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City). Click here for tickets and more info.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (May 4-10, 2015): The Hukilau news and updates, plus summer Tiki festival season kicks off”

The Hukilau is movin’ on up …. to the landmark Pier 66 hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach

When Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White said she had big plans for the revived and reinvigorated Polynesian Pop event she has organized since 2002, she wasn’t kidding. When The Hukilau returns to Fort Lauderdale for its 14th annual Tiki weekender in June, it will be headquartered at one of the area’s most distinctive landmark hotels, the towering Hyatt Regency Pier 66.
Related posts: Latest updates on The Hukilau 2015

The Hukilau

The Hukilau: June 10-14, 2015, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. More info at TheHukilau.com and Facebook.
* Make hotel reservations now
* Previous coverage: Following ‘magical’ 2014, Tiki Kiliki has big plans for The Hukilau

The 17-story Pier 66 tower was built 50 years ago and opened in 1965
The 17-story Pier 66 tower was built 50 years ago and opened in 1965.

Rising 17 stories on the south end of Fort Lauderdale Beach, the historic hotel has roots that date back to 1956, the same year The Mai-Kai restaurant opened its doors around 6 miles to the north. The historic Polynesian supper club has been the centerpiece of The Hukilau since 2003, when the event moved from Atlanta, but host hotels have not been as stable [see list]. The most popular have been the Bahia Mar, Yankee Clipper and Bahia Cabana, all located near the more lavish Pier 66, which dominates the skyline next to Port Everglades and the Intracoastal Waterway bridge. But none of The Hukilau’s previous hotels approaches its amenities or spectacular views.

Pier 66 was built on 22 acres adjacent to the port as a dock and marina by Phillips Petroleum (aka Phillips 66), hence the “66” moniker. In the late ’50s, a two story hotel and restaurant were added, but the site gained notoriety (and its lasting iconic status) in 1965, when the 17-story tower was erected. Containing 250 rooms, its signature touch was the penthouse, a mid-century modern space-age design that contained a rotating cocktail lounge. Celebrating its 50th year in 2015, the tower’s rooftop restaurant/lounge will be the site of a very special event at The Hukilau.
* See more hotel history below

Pier 66, now operated as a Hyatt Regency property, is a popular destination for conventions, weddings and special events. It features 384 rooms, five restaurants and lounges, a newly remodeled marina, and three pools and waterfalls. The luxury hotel also boasts a spa, fitness center, water taxi, boat rentals and fishing charters, two tennis courts, and a complimentary beach shuttle.

Continue reading “The Hukilau is movin’ on up …. to the landmark Pier 66 hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach”

Following ‘magical’ 2014, Tiki Kiliki has big plans for The Hukilau in 2015 and beyond

After coming precariously close to saying aloha and goodbye to The Hukilau, the long-running Tiki event she has organized since 2002, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White is sure glad things turned out differently. “For me, it was the best event in the history of The Hukilau,” she said of the five-day festival in June that not only marked the 13th annual gathering of vintage culture devotees from around the world, but also a new beginning.

The Hukilau's Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White introduces her new partners, Richard Oneslager (left) and Mike Zielinski, during Saturday night's Main Event at The Mai-Kai.
The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White introduces her new partners, Richard Oneslager (left) and Mike Zielinski, during Saturday night’s Main Event at The Mai-Kai.

Just months before she planned to close the books on The Hukilau for good, White was approached by two fans of the event who also happened to be experienced businessmen and event organizers who were eager to strike up a partnership. “I consider myself a very lucky person,” she said of the serendipity of the happenstance that led to The Hukilau not only surviving to see 2015, but becoming poised to thrive and reach new audiences across the country.

I sat down with Tiki Kiliki recently at The Mai-Kai, the beloved 57-year-old Polynesian restaurant that serves as the inspiration for the event, to get the lowdown on what she and her new partners, Richard Oneslager and Mike Zielinski, have in the works for The Hukilau and how their mutually beneficial partnership came about. But first, a look back at that memorable event in June that was expanded to five days in anticipation of a last hurrah. Instead, it turned into a celebration of what’s to come.

The Hukilau 2014 was held June 11-15 at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale.
See below: Gallery of 62 photos from The Atomic Grog. Click on bold links below for galleries by the official photographers at Go11 Media.
Related: The Hukilau offers a deep dive into the history of porthole cocktail lounges
The Hukilau 2015 will be held June 10-14. Get updates at TheHukilau.com and Facebook.

In the waning hours of The Hukilau on Sunday, artist Crazy Al Evans and author Jeff "Beachbum" Berry get one last chance to savor The Mai-Kai, its cocktails and its tropical garden.
In the waning hours of The Hukilau on Sunday, artist Crazy Al Evans and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry get one last chance to savor The Mai-Kai, its cocktails and its tropical garden.

“This is going to sound really strange, but sort of like Disney, it was kind of like magic this year,” Tiki Kiliki told me. “You can’t really explain it, but everything just fell into place in a magical way. We talked about it afterwards. We don’t really know what the magic formula was, it just happened.”

The magic started on Wednesday, June 11, when what was formerly an informal night at The Mai-Kai became the Unofficial Official Pre-Party. South Florida roots/rockabilly band Slip and the Spinouts jammed in the sold-out Molokai bar while other attendees enjoyed many of the bar’s 47 classic Tiki cocktails and the restaurant’s extensive appetizer and dinner menu in the more sedate dining rooms. Logistical problems at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper forced the cancellation of Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s scheduled midnight swim show, but that just gave some attendees the opportunity to begin their room parties early. Disappointed guests were heartened by the fact that there was much more Marina to come.

Continue reading “Following ‘magical’ 2014, Tiki Kiliki has big plans for The Hukilau in 2015 and beyond”

Missed The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai? Limited edition Tiki mugs are the next best thing

Updated June 21, 2014

The 13th edition of The Hukilau, the East Coast’s largest annual event dedicated to mid-century and Polynesian Pop culture, rolled into Fort Lauderdale last week for five days of “the most authentic Tiki event in the world.” But if you didn’t make it down to the beachside festivities or the historic Mai-Kai restaurant, you still have a limited-time opportunity to pick up some exclusive merchandise.
Related: Artists pay tribute to The Mai-Kai with one-of-a-kind mugs

The Hukilau was held June 11-15, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Check the Facebook page for photos and recaps.
* The Atomic Grog at The Hukilau 2014

The Hukilau 2014 Commemorative Mug by Eekum Bookum
The Hukilau 2014 Commemorative Mug by Eekum Bookum comes with a choice of two different glazes. (Photo by Nomeus)

For many, the one piece of merchandise most closely associated with Tiki culture is, of course, the Tiki mug. Every year, The Hukilau has produced one of the most distinctive (and valuable) mugs on the market, designed by noted artists and produced in limited editions by the top mug manufacturers. [Click here to see some of the past designs]

First released only to ticket-holders and registered guests, The Hukilau 2014 Commemorative Mug is available (while supplies last) to the general public. Designed and produced by Oregon’s Eekum Bookum, the mug comes with two different glazes (Lava and Sunset) and features “The Final Aloha” on the back. In production before it was announced that the event will continue next year, this mug is likely to become a collector’s piece. [Check out the value of past mugs]

Continue reading “Missed The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai? Limited edition Tiki mugs are the next best thing”

The Hukilau says ‘Aloha’ but not goodbye, adds more entertainment to lineup for June 11-15 event

Updated June 13

In Hawaii, aloha can mean both hello and goodbye. For the annual Polynesian Pop gathering that returns to Fort Lauderdale in less than two weeks for its 13th annual celebration, both definitions are particularly apropos.

The Hukilau: Wednesday, June 11, through Sunday, June 15, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Get tickets and more info at TheHukilau.com and Facebook. | See all of The Atomic Grog’s coverage

The Hukilau

For the many devotees who will be traveling from around the world to attend the retro-themed festivities on June 11-15, aloha has quickly gone from meaning a lamented last fling to a promising new beginning. After regretfully deciding late last year that 2014 would be the “Final Aloha,” organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White announced in April that The Hukilau will continue in 2015 with new partners and new energy. Look for more details at this year’s event.

But the focus now is on the expanded five-day bash that’s rapidly approaching. Featuring live music, symposiums, artists, vendors, special events and performances, The Hukilau is the East Coast’s largest Tiki-themed event. Thousands of mid-century and retro culture enthusiasts have made the annual pilgrimage since 2002 in search of the most authentic Tiki experience.

Continue reading “The Hukilau says ‘Aloha’ but not goodbye, adds more entertainment to lineup for June 11-15 event”

The Hukilau adds new band, symposium to lineup for June’s ‘final aloha’

UPDATES: The Hukilau says ‘Aloha’ but not goodbye, adds more entertainment (May)
The Hukilau announces return for 14th year in 2015 (April)

With tickets rapidly selling out and Tikiphiles flocking from around the world for the 13th and final edition of The Hukilau, organizers could certainly rest on their laurels. Instead, the annual Tiki event in Fort Lauderdale is getting an injection of new entertainment to add even more value (and fun) to the festivities.

The Sweet Hollywaiians perform at the Bahia Mar during The Hukilau in June 2010
The Sweet Hollywaiians perform at the Bahia Mar during The Hukilau in June 2010. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The Hukilau: June 11-15, 2014, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Get tickets and make hotel reservations now at TheHukilau.com. Get updates on the Facebook page.
Previous post: Schedule announced for The Hukilau’s ‘Final Aloha’ in June

The Sweet Hollywaiians, one of the most memorable bands in the history of the event, will be making the trek from Osaka, Japan, to perform for the second time. The ensemble, formed in 2002 by a group of street musicians, carries on the 1920s and ’30s string band tradition with their all-instrumental arrangements. They seamlessly combine a smorgasbord of vintage styles such as Hawaiian, Swing, Ragtime, Blues, Calypso and Italian. The foursome plays an array of string instruments, such as lap steel guitar, banjo, tipple, ukulele, mandolin, and bass.

The band first wowed The Hukilau faithful in 2010, when they performed at the Bahia Mar and The Mai-Kai. They will return to both venues in 2014, headlining the Friday night Main Event at the hotel and making a special Mai-Kai appearance on Saturday. Previously announced entertainment includes The Left Arm of Buddha from Belgium, The Smokin’ Menehunes from California, and Florida bands The Intoxicators, Skinny Jimmy & The Stingrays, Slip and the Spinouts, and Gold Dust Lounge. Click here for more info on the bands and special guests.

Continue reading “The Hukilau adds new band, symposium to lineup for June’s ‘final aloha’”

The Hukilau’s Tiki Kiliki announces ‘The Final Aloha’ in 2014

UPDATES: The Hukilau announces return for 14th year in 2015 (April 2014)
See all of The Atomic Grog’s coverage

The Hukilau: June 11-15, 2014, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Latest updates: TheHukilau.com | Facebook or Twitter

The Hukilau: The Final Aloha

After 12 years of hosting one of the largest and most authentic gatherings of Polynesian Pop enthusiasts from across the globe, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White announced today that The Hukilau in June 2014 will be the event’s “Final Aloha.”

“I am lucky enough to be embarking on a new career and as we all know, life has the tendency to naturally shift your focus and you follow another path,” White posted today on the event’s official website. “We feel honored to have accomplished what we set out to do many years ago – to bring awareness to Tiki palaces on the East Coast and to help in their preservation so that many more generations are able to enjoy the spirit of Aloha.”

The Hukilau’s 13th and final event promises to be “the Big Kahuna – The Hukilau to end all Hukilaus,” White announced. “We are extending the event to five glorious days in the sun this year. Each one will bring new experiences and special performances.”

Continue reading “The Hukilau’s Tiki Kiliki announces ‘The Final Aloha’ in 2014”

Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: The classic Demerara Float rises again … and again

Updated May 2017
See below: Demerara Float review | Ancestor recipe
Official recipe | Tribute recipe
Related: The delicious Demerara Cocktail just can’t stay retired | Mai-Kai cocktail guide
More “lost cocktails” | Tropical drink family tree

Most fans of the spectacular tropical drinks at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale are content with the current 47 cocktails, a majority of them classic concoctions that have withstood the test of time for 60 years. But The Atomic Grog can’t get enough of The Mai-Kai, so like to crank up our flux capacitor and go back in time to dig up a few “lost cocktails” that disappeared from the menu over the years.

A classic returns: The Demerara Float in March 2013
A classic returns: The Demerara Float in March 2013. (Photo by Christie J. White)

Consider this the advanced level of the Okole Maluna Society, our cocktail guide that includes reviews and recipes of every current drink and a few long-lost classics.

When the Demerara Cocktail came out of retirement in August 2012, it gave us the inspiration to dig deeper into the history and explore some of the other long-gone drinks. Here’s the cool part: They’re not really long gone. The old recipes are still kept in owner Dave Levy’s office, safely under lock and key. Levy is the stepson of founder Bob Thornton, and keeper of most of the remaining cocktail secrets.

So after the return of the Demerara Cocktail, the next logical step was to revisit its sister drink, the Demerara Float. It took more than six months, but our wish was granted unexpectedly in early in 2013, when the photo above popped up on the Facebook news feed of The Hukilau organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White. It looked like a Shark Bite with its Appleton rum floater. But this was no Shark Bite. The rum was noticeably darker. Could it be?

Continue reading “Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: The classic Demerara Float rises again … and again”

The Hukilau weathers many storms to celebrate 10 years of Tiki madness

The 10th anniversary Hukilau – featuring four days of music, art, cocktails, vendors, symposiums on Tiki culture and much more – takes place Thursday through Sunday, June 9-12, in Fort Lauderdale. Go to TheHukilau.com for the full schedule and more information on all the performers and guests.
* Related: Hukilau 2010 video preview | Mixologists vie to build a better Barrel

In the beginning …

In 2002, a modern Tiki renaissance was in full swing. Inspired by the heyday of Polynesian Pop, which began with groundbreaking efforts of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic in the 1930s and stretched for more than 30 years into the 1960s, a new generation of artists, musicians, mixologists and entrepreneurs had been embracing retro Tiki culture since the 1990s.

The Hukilau

As this grassroots movement gained momentum and new devotees discovered the wider world of mid-century pop culture, full-blown events soon followed. In Southern California – the birthplace of Tiki and haven for some of the genre’s most beloved bars, architecture and artists – Tiki Oasis started small in 2001 and quickly became the largest Tiki event in the West by its second installment in 2002.

The Hukilau was envisioned by its founders not only as the East Coast’s answer to Tiki Oasis, but also a celebration of the growing family and community, or ‘ohana, that had become so enamored with the entire underground movement. The name of the event, of course, comes from the traditional Hawaiian festival held in fishing villages in which a large net is cast into the sea to capture fish for the feast that honors the spirit of family and community.

Continue reading “The Hukilau weathers many storms to celebrate 10 years of Tiki madness”