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The Year in Tiki 2015: Legends lost, but revival becomes renaissance with new bars, music, art and more

The Year in Tiki 2015, clockwise from left: Shag, the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau, the late Robert Drasnin, The Tikiyaki Orchestra at Tiki Oasis
The Year in Tiki 2015, clockwise from left: Shag, the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau, the late Robert Drasnin, The Tikiyaki Orchestra at Tiki Oasis.
It was a year of both sadness and elation, when some legends were lost but the world of Tiki made great strides. As we mourned the deaths in 2015 of musicians Robert Drasnin and Ernie Menehune, plus artist The Pizz, we were bolstered by the fact that a new generation of artists and musicians are taking inspiration from the past and creating an incredible new body of work. And Tiki culture was embraced and celebrated across the country at sold-out events and a whole new wave of bars. After our first year of The Week in Tiki updates, The Atomic Grog takes a look back at the memorable news of 2015.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook | RSS feed | See all the past weeks | Archive
See below: Month-by-month recap | The Year in Tiki 2015 Awards

The year 2015 marked a turning point in the 21st century Tiki scene. If there was ever a time to declare that the “revival” had become a full-blown renaissance, it’s now. It’s been building for some years now, but last year seemed to be the tipping point. Just look at the evidence in our favorite topics: Events, music, art, cocktails, and culture. Then, take a chronological look back at the biggest news of the year, month by month. Finally, find out our selections for the top artist, band, bar, website, rum, and cocktail of 2015 in our first Year in Tiki Awards.

****************** EVENTS ******************

The Alika Lyman Group's performance at The Hukilau was their only scheduled U.S. mainland appearance of 2015. (Atomic Grog photo)
The Alika Lyman Group’s performance at The Hukilau was their only scheduled U.S. mainland appearance of 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Long gone are the days when you spent the entire year planning for Tiki Oasis and The Hukilau. Smaller events, such as Tiki Kon and Tiki Caliente, have risen up to challenge the trend-setters. And the Fraternal Order Of Moai has filled a gap by providing a plethora of regional events from Ohana: Luau At The Lake to the Chicago Area Tiki Tour, and more. All of the above were wildly successful in 2015, with many events selling out in advance.

The top dogs continue to raise their game: The Hukilau moved to the iconic Pier 66 Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach and attracted some of Tiki’s biggest names, most notably the gathering of four of the world’s top bartenders for the Tiki Tower Takeover. Tiki Oasis keeps getting bigger, breaking its own attendance records, while newer events such as Mod-Palm Springs and Ohana: Luau by the Sea have carved out their own niche. Rum and cocktail events – such as Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and Tales of the Cocktail – have refined their successful formulas, spreading their message to an even wider audience.

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Minimalist Tiki

The Week in Tiki (Sept. 7-20, 2015): Ohana: Luau by the Sea and Mod Palm Springs, plus more event previews

The Week in TikiThe summer may be ending soon, but there’s no shortage of Tiki events, including Ohana: Luau by the Sea in Fort Lauderdale and Mod Palm Springs in California coming in early October. Check out previews of both, plus this month’s Tonga Room 70th anniversary in San Francisco, a Tiki cocktail history seminar in D.C., Tiki Day at Disneyland, and Thee Hot Rod Luau in Southern California. We also have recaps of the recent Fong Fest in Chicago, and Don the Beachcomber’s International Tiki Market Place. Plus news from the Chicago Area Tiki Tour and a possible Tiki bowling establishment coming to Atlanta. Regular features honor the late Florida artist Wayne Coombs; South Florida’s Cutback Surfband; the Bootlegger Tiki bar in Palm Springs; and the Ministry of Rum website. The rum of the week, Coruba Original, is featured in a vintage Planter’s Punch.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Last chance for Ohana: Luau by the Sea tickets

Don’t miss out on the very first Ohana: Luau by the Sea, set for Oct. 1-3 in Fort Lauderdale. Online ticket sales will end at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, Sept. 21, so the organizers can get an accurate head count and prepare for their Saturday night luau at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport hotel, headquarters of the event. There will be no same-day ticket sales.

Ohana: Luau by the Sea

Brought to you by the Fraternal Order Of Moai – the same friendly, fez-wearing folks who earlier this year presented the sister event Ohana: Luau at the Lake in upstate New York – this inaugural event is being hosted by the charity organization’s Gumbo Limbo chapter in South Florida.

Attendees can enjoy live music, DJs, seminars, contests, a rum tasting, vendors, auctions, prizes, food and the legendary dinner show at The Mai-Kai restaurant. Tickets are $85, or $135 if you pair it with a limited edition event mug by PopTiki of Colorado.

Your ticket gives you access to three days of Tiki-themed festivities:

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Sept. 7-20, 2015): Ohana: Luau by the Sea and Mod Palm Springs, plus more event previews”

Gallery founded by the late Tiki carver Wayne Coombs bids adieu

Wayne CoombsA year after the tragic death of artist and famed Tiki carver Wayne Coombs, his Mai Tiki gallery will be closing its doors after this weekend’s Space Coast Art Festival in Cocoa Beach.

The gallery will be celebrating 40 years of Wayne Coombs’ art at the festival, which runs through Sunday. Wayne founded the studio and gallery on Nov. 5, 1973, with is wife, Beki.

Becki Coombs has announced that she’ll be retiring after the festival. Dating back to 1963, the Space Coast Art Festival is also marking a landmark with its 50th event.

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Discover some Wayne Coombs treasures at estate sale this weekend

Wayne Coombs was not only a legendary Tiki carver for 45 years at his Cocoa Beach studio, but apparently also a prolific packrat. The influential artist, who passed away in September at age 62, compiled a vast assortment of tools, collectibles, driftwood and knickknacks that will be available today and Saturday at an estate sale at the Mai Tiki compound.
Previous coverage: My brush with greatness: Remembering Wayne Coombs

Wayne Coombs' "inspirations and chisels"
The estate sale will include Wayne Coombs’ “inspirations and chisels.” (From Mai Tiki’s Facebook page)

Coombs’ family and Mai Tiki crew are carrying on his work, continuing to produce his distinctive carvings that became known worldwide for a style all their own, “Florida Tiki.” But they cannot be blamed for downsizing his vast collection of hoardings. To him, it was all found art.

This “Great Wayno Estate Sale” will start each morning at 8 a.m. and include: Tikis, masks, carvings, bones, carving tools, carved horns, stone castings, portholes, frames, wood parts, a wall of saws, and dozens more items pictured on the Mai Tiki Facebook page.

Whether you’re a fellow artist looking for inspirational tools and materials, or a Tikiphile looking to fill up your home bar with famous flotsam and jetsam, you won’t want to miss this event. Just walk through and pick up some treasures. Everything is priced, this is not an auction.

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My brush with greatness: Remembering Wayne Coombs, 1949-2012

Like the imposing Tikis that he carved for more than 40 years, Cocoa Beach’s Wayne Coombs was a larger-than-life figure with a mischievous bent and a style all his own. Coombs, whose distinctive “Florida style” of carving became his trademark and made him one of the modern Tiki revival’s most well-known and beloved figures, passed away on Sept. 4 at age 62.

A postcard promoting Wayne Coombs, the artist

Wayne is believed to have suffered a heart attack at his studio. He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Beki. A celebration will be held in his honor on Sunday, Sept. 23, from 1 to 5 p.m. at his Mai Tiki Gallery in Cocoa Beach.

Originally from Miami, Wayne moved with his family to the Space Coast at age 14. He was a rambunctious artist and free spirit from an early age. His first gallery, Free and Creative, opened in the mid-’60s and he began carving Tikis in 1967. He and Beki founded Mai Tiki Studio and Gallery in 1973.

Over the years, Wayne became a fixture not only in Brevard County and throughout Florida, where his Tikis are ubiquitous, but also in the worldwide surfing and Tiki scenes. The studio and gallery became a local attraction, and his fame grew large enough to match his imposing figure and robust personalty.

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Six ways to celebrate Tiki, today and all year long

Updated Tuesday, Sept. 6

Over the past decade, the second Saturday of August has become an annual day of celebration in the world of Polynesian Pop culture: International Tiki Day.

The holiday was created in 2002 by Kevin Bullat, the steel guitar player for The Hula Girls, as a day of fasting and quiet prayer. No, wait. It’s a day dedicated to colorful aloha shirts, tropical drinks, and tribal revelry.

It’s touted as a great day to host your own backyard luau or visit a contemporary Tiki bar in your area. Most Tikiphiles need no special day to partake in such activities. It’s a year-round, 24-7 lifestyle for many. Newbies may need a little help, however.

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