Hukilau 2011 video preview: A Tiki-lover’s dream event

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 for the full schedule and more information on all the performers and guests.
* Related: A decade of The Hukilau (video) | Mixologists vie to build a better Barrel

All history lessons should be this fun

Now entering its 10th year, The Hukilau has become not only the largest Tiki-themed event on the East Coast, but also a museum of Polynesian Pop and mid-century modern art, culture, music and much more.

The Hukilau

Most of the weekend’s events celebrate and honor the history of the original Tiki movement, which began in the 1930s and was fueled by vets returning from the Pacific after World War II in the 1940s, the statehood of Hawaii in the 1950s, and the boom of cocktail culture in the 1960s.

What had once been a vibrant culture lay dormant for several decades until it was rediscovered in the 1990s by the retro-loving underground art, music and cocktail scenes. By the turn of the century, a revival was in full swing and events such at The Hukilau were launched.

Now, 10 years down the road, the word “revival” may no longer be relevant as a whole new generation of artists, musicians and mixologists has evolved. With much due respect to the past, they’ve put their own modern spin on Tiki culture and will be showing off their talents at The Hukilau.

A day-by-day preview of events …

Thursday, June 9

(The Intoxicators perform Penetration at Hukilau 2009 at The Mai-Kai)

Events kick off at the host hotel, the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and Yachting Center (though there’s unlikely to be much yachting going on at The Hukilau). From 5:30 to 7 p.m., attendees will get dressed in their finest “aloha wear” for a sneak preview of the Harold Golen Gallery’s Tiki Art Show as well as the huge Tiki Treasures Bazaar. Direct from New York City, DJs Jack Fetterman and Gina of the Jungle will be spinning the hippest Tiki tunes.

At 7 p.m., the action moves to the nearby Bahia Cabana Beach Resort for the Hukilau Kickoff Party. This funky hotel is sold out with festival attendees and will be party central throughout the weekend. The poolside stage will be rocking with performances by Tallahassee surf masters The Intoxicators (see video above) and Southern California exotica revival band Tikiyaki Orchestra. Joining Tikiyaki Orchestra for a special performance will be South Florida’s own Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid.

The Master Mixologist Rum Barrel Challenge takes center stage at 10 p.m. as five competitors face off in a cocktail contest honoring The Mai-Kai’s signature Barrel O’ Rum. Using sponsor rums and mixers, they’ve come up with their own spin on the legendary drink and will be making them live for the judges, some of the most lauded Tiki drink authorities in the world (aka the “Rum Rat Pack”): Tropical drink historian and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry; UK Rumfest organizer Ian Burrell; Martin Cate, owner of the award-winning San Francisco bar Smuggler’s Cove; journalist and author Wayne Curtis; and New Orleans rum historian Stephen Remsberg. One winner will be crowned Master Mixologist of Hukilau 2011 and will also earn a custom hand-carved muddler and Mai-Kai gift certificate.
* Click here for more on the Rum Barrel Challenge

The party then moves to the Bahia Cabana’s two upstairs penthouses for several late-night parties serving up complimentary drinks. Sponsors Kona Beer and Montanya Rum will be throwing a bash at 11 p.m. featuring a new signature cocktail created for the event by Beachbum Berry. At midnight, a second penthouse opens featuring various cocktails, including authentic drinks from The Mai-Kai. DJs will be spinning retro tunes as the party continues into the wee hours. Don’t be surprised if impromptu room parties spring up throughout the hotel.

Friday, June 10

(The Exotics perform at Cafe LuLu in Milwaukee)

A long day of festivities kicks off at the Bahia Mar at 10 a.m. with the full opening of the Tiki Treasures Bazaar. Vendors from all over the world will be on hand for your shopping pleasure. The Tiki Art Show also reopens, and mood music will be spun throughout the day and night by DJs Laura Taylor and Drew Farmer, along with the return of Jack and Gina.

At noon, Disney devotees won’t want to miss a special appearance by Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily. Meet and greet the artists and have them sign your prints and collectibles. Kidney and Daily are designers, writers, product creators, sculptors, animators, illustrators and bloggers who recently completed work on Disneyland’s acclaimed new Tiki bar, Trader Sam’s, as well as art directed a new Disneyland parade called Soundsational. Kidney is also a longtime Hukilau collaborator and was the designer of this year’s signature event mug and glassware. Hukilau merchandise will be available in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar, while supplies last.

Another meet-and-greet will be held at 3 p.m., with Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and the Rum Rat Pack signing their books and talking to fans. The afternoon winds down at 4 p.m. with the symposium “Hawaii: Sailors, Sex and the Birth of Old School Tattoos,” an in-depth look at the unique tattoo style through the words, photos and designs of the legendary artists. The symposium is presented by Paul Roe, an artist and owner of Britishink Tattoos in Washington D.C., who has also done vast research and written extensively about tattoo culture.

(Grinder Nova performs Tijuana Sidewinder in 2008 at Lenny’s in Atlanta)

Though not directly part of The Hukilau, The Wreck Bar at the nearby Sheraton Beach Hotel (formerly the Yankee Clipper) is typically a favorite watering hole of attendees. And the bar’s signature event is Friday night’s 6:30 p.m. “mermaid show” featuring Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid. Giant windows in the ground-floor bar open up to the pool, where Marina and her mermaid friends can be seen performing their weekly swim.

After a two-hour break, the Tiki Treasures Bazaar and Tiki Art Show reopen back at the Bahia Mar at 7 p.m. and continue until 11. The Hukilau Main Event takes over the ballroom with a night of live entertainment hosted by longtime Hukilau master of ceremonies King Kukulele. Live musical performances will include Milwaukee surf band The Exotics (see video above), eclectic Atlanta band Grinder Nova (see video above), New York City purveyor of naughty exotica The Fisherman, and Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid.

Friday night ends with a bang with a special after-hours event. From 11 p.m. until 2 a.m., local hipster hangout Radioactive Records presents the Exotica A Go-Go Dance Party featuring DJs Sensitive Side, James Brown’s Sweat and Mikey R. playing funk, trash, mod, rockabilly, groovy R&B, exotica and more.

Saturday, June 11

(The Tikiyaki Orchestra performs Quiet Village at Hukilau 2008 at The Mai-Kai)

It’s your last chance to pick up keepsakes at the Tiki Treasures Bazaar, open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Another look into the past is offered at 11:30 a.m. during the symposium “Beautiful Girls That Live Like Fish.” Presented by, it’s the story of the famous 1960s attraction Aquarama as told through vintage photos, film and interviews with the “Aquamaids” and “Aqualads” who worked there.

At 2 p.m. sharp, the festivities move inland to the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant on Federal Highway for a 10-hour feast of the senses that includes Beachbum Berry’s “Rumposium,” two happy hours, two authentic Polynesian dinner shows and five live bands. Shuttle buses will ferry attendees from the beachside hotels to The Mai-Kai throughout the day and night. The Rumposium is a special event limited to 200 tickets and will undoubtedly sell out. The Bum has selected four of the world’s most entertaining rum authorities to join him onstage for the first time to celebrate Tiki’s favorite spirit. We’re not sure exactly what’s in store, but there’s bound to be plenty of sample drinks, flaming Tiki bowls and more than enough frivolity to make you forget that you’re actually learning a thing or two.

The Mai-Kai offers a full day and night of entertainment for the Tikiphiles who make this annual pilgrimage to what many consider the most well-preserved Tiki palace left in the world. Happy hour takes place in The Molokai bar (with spillover into the back dining areas) from 4 to 5 p.m. and again from 6:30 to 8:30. The Mai-Kai’s renowned dinner show, which has been performed for some 50 years (see video below), is the centerpiece of the evening. Reservations are required for dinner in the showroom, and the first show is already sold out. Showtimes are 7:30 and 10:30.

If that weren’t enough, The Hukilau has crammed so many bands into the evening that it’s impossible not to find a set of live music at any point during the festivities. In The Molokai, catch The Exotics during the first happy hour, The Fisherman during the second happy hour and Grinder Nova playing a late-night set from 10 until midnight. In the Samoa and Tahiti dining areas, don’t miss the Tikiyaki Orchestra (see video above) at 8:45, followed by The Intoxicators playing their traditional closing set until the midnight hour, when the party moves back to the hotels.

Sunday, June 12

(2009 Mai-Kai promotional video) | See also: 2009 press party video

The hardy Hukilau faithful will return to The Mai-Kai for an exclusive farewell event from 2 to 5 p.m. Open only to festivalgoers (you must have a wristband to enter), the gathering will celebrate the 55th anniversary of The Mai-Kai, which will open up its archives to show off rare artifacts. The Hukilau will also share memories and memorabilia.

As an added bonus, there will be a meet-and-greet with surf guitar legend Dick Dale and protege Laramie Dean at 4 p.m. Bring your vintage albums and posters for them to sign as they stop by on their way to their concerts in Miami and West Palm Beach. There will also be a raffle for free tickets to the shows.
* Click here for more info on the their tour

The Tiki faithful will linger at The Mai-Kai well into Sunday evening, while the extremely hardy will venture out to Sunday’s and/or Monday’s Dick Dale concerts as a fitting capper of another memorable Hukilau. We may need another vacation just to recover from this one.

Check back for a full report on all the festivities.


Official 2011 Hukilau sites: | Flickr | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube
Venue sites: The Mai-Kai | Bahia Mar | Bahia Cabana

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