Modern Caribbean Rum

Tiki Kiliki: 15 years of The Hukilau, 15 years of memories

In honor of the 15th anniversary of The Hukilau, we asked Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White to share her remembrances from her 15 years as co-founder, co-producer and organizer. Starting in 2002 in Atlanta and moving to Fort Lauderdale the next year, the event has experienced plenty of high points for guests and participants. But what does Tiki Kiliki remember most?
Video: A look back at The Hukilau’s first 14 years

The Hukilau 2016: June 8-12, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
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Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White
Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White

There were so many highlights, she said, it was tough to narrow down. Here’s a year-by-year look back at a few of the most vivid:

2002 – Two things stick in Tiki Kiliki’s memory from the inaugural event: “The look on the manager’s face when Wayne Coombs began using his industrial stapler to cover the Echo Lounge in Atlanta with reed fencing for The Hukilau party that night.” The other was meeting Sven Kirsten and King Kukulele for the first time, “taking them to antique markets, thrift stores and the Clairmont Lounge.”

2003 – Tiki Kiliki will always remember entering the doors of The Mai-Kai for the first time. “It changed my life forever,” she said. Meeting owner Mireille Thornton and hearing her say that The Hukilau reminded her of the way it used to be was “the ultimate compliment AND memory!” She got an unexpected surprise during the first U.S. appearance of Italian band I Belli Di Waikiki. “They dumped an entire cooler of ice down the back of my dress,” she remembers.

The Hukilau 2006

2004 – Nobody will forget Hurricane Jeanne. “It was a terrible thing to go through, but it created some of the best memories,” Tiki Kiliki said. “People slept in The Mai-Kai and I learned a lot about how you always trust your gut. We should have evacuated the day prior.” The other highlight was watching Billy Mure play the music that he loved to play in front of true fans. “He was horribly arthritic, but he always said the only time he wasn’t in pain was when he was playing,” she said. “He was a friend until his passing in 2013 at the age of 97.”

2005 – Robert Drasnin made a historic appearance, performing his classic Voodoo album for the first time since 1959. “It was one of the moments I’m most proud of in my life,” Tiki Kiliki said. “Everyone in the audience was mesmerized.” The performance was so successful and the reception so warm, “he actually began to write Voodoo 2 while in Fort Lauderdale that weekend,” she said.

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Minimalist Tiki

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.
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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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The Week in Tiki (Nov. 2-15, 2015): The Hukilau and Miami Rum Fest tickets, Makahiki arrives, Wayne Coombs tribute, Tiki bars, galleries and more!

The Week in Tiki Florida tops the latest news with updates on passes and tickets for The Hukilau and Miami Rum Fest, a preview of Makahiki in Orlando, and a special tribute to the late artist Wayne Coombs. In Atlanta, artist Derek Yaniger will talk at Trader Vic’s, and news has emerged on a new Tiki bar. Check out photos from two Los Angeles art events spotlighting Shag and Tiki Farm, plus find out which Tiki and rum bars were rated among the nation’s best. We also have quick hits on the new Beachbum Berry Tiki Cocktail Picks, Tiki bar openings and closings, a Hawaiian War Chant marathon, award-winning Caribbean rum, an album featuring Los Straitjackets playing the Peanuts theme, and the death of Kustom car legend George Barris. Regular features spotlight lowbrow artist Big Toe; simian surf band The Disasternauts; Foundation Tiki Bar in Milwaukee; and the Tales of the Cocktail website. The Rum of the Week, Clément Select Barrel, is featured in Paul McGee’s Three Dots and a Dash.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Event tickets: The Hukilau selling fast, Miami Rum Fest available now

The Hukilau 2016

The Hukilau has announced that all five-day tickets are sold out for the 15th annual Tiki weekender scheduled for June 8-12 at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. The last of the Big Kahuna passes was snapped up just one week after all the new South Seas passes sold out. But prospective villagers shouldn’t worry. There are plenty of Aloha (Thursday through Sunday) and Luau (Friday through Sunday) passes available. All passes went on sale in late October at 2015 prices, which will remain in effect until early January. If you buy your pass early, you also get first shot at several exclusive ticketed events on June 9 in the hotel’s rotating 17th floor ballroom: Shag’s SkyLounge (hosted by artist Josh Agle) and the Tiki Tower Takeover (featuring cocktails by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry of Latitude 29, Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove, Paul McGee of Lost Lake, and Brian Miller of Tiki Mondays With Miller). Look for an update soon on two more bars joining the Tiki Tower Takeover lineup. Previously announced guests include Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid (MeduSirena), plus Tiki historians Sven Kirsten and Humuhumu. Shag will also be hosting his first-ever symposium at a Tiki event.
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Atomic Grog coverage
* Tiki Tower Takeover bartenders return, Marina to perform in expanded Wreck Bar
* The Hukilau 2016 passes on sale now at 2015 prices
* Shag to help toast The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary in 2016
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2016 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Tickets are on sale now for the 2016 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, scheduled for April 15-17 at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. The eighth annual event, one of the world’s largest gatherings of rum enthusiasts, will include a trade expo for professionals and grand tasting for the general public featuring new and award-winning spirits from Florida, the United States, the Caribbean and across the globe. Attendees will have the opportunity to sample hundreds of rums, attend expert seminars, see cocktail competitions, browse an island-themed marketplace, plus more. Heading into its fourth year at the spacious convention center, the Miami Rum Festival features 50,000 square feet of exhibit space that annually includes more than 100 exhibitors, two stages and multiple seminar rooms. Experts attending the festival will present dozens of awards in the annual RumXP Tasting Competition. Past festivals have given guests an early taste of some of the industry’s hottest new rums. Hotel rooms typically sell out well in advance of the festival, so it’s a good idea to book early and get the best rates. Miami Rum Fest organizers Robert A. Burr and Robert V. Burr are currently in the midst of hosting the 2015 Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise, sailing Nov. 15-22 with stops at distilleries in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Croix, and San Juan.
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Atomic Grog coverage: 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012| 2011 | All posts
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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.
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* 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:

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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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