A Hukilau is a traditional Hawaiian festival held in the fishing villages of old. A large net is cast into the sea then the villagers herd the fish and slowly pull the net to the shore. The feast that follows is meant to emphasize the spirit of family and community, or 'ohana. Our mainland Hukilau is a net thrown out to the entire world, bringing the lovers of "Polynesian Pop" or "Tiki" culture together for our own special celebration. Our Hukilau began when a few people on the Tiki Central message board discussed gathering at Trader Vic’s in Atlanta. Tiki Kiliki (Co-founder and Producer) and Swanky (Co-Founder & former Organizer -- click here to read his bio) began planning what is now "The Hukilau" -- an annual event celebrating Hawaiian and Polynesian Pop culture while honoring a historic Tiki bar/location. The reaction and excitement was phenomenal! The first event held in 2002, honoring Trader Vic’s Atlanta (open since 1976), was three days of entertainment and events. All venues sold out and the crowds poured in. It also sparked a fire to do more, thus an annual Tiki Gala was born!
Hukilau saw a change of location in 2003 when we were encouraged by other Tikiphiles to honor the amazing Mai Kai in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (open since 1956). The response was overwhelming, as we had attendees from all over the world and once again the event was extremely successful. In 2004, despite the occurrence of Hurricane Jeanne, the event had an attendance of over 800 guests. With yet another successful year, along with the support of the Mai Kai family, Hukilau had found a permanent home. In 2005, Hukilau made history as we assembled a 16-piece orchestra to play one of the greatest compositions of Exotica music ever recorded by the incomparable Robert Drasnin. The performance of his LP, Voodoo, marked the first time the material had been played in its entirety since 1959. Attendees have described the experience as if they were transported back in time to the 1950s and were watching a live performance in one of the many Tiki palaces that used to grace almost every major city in America. 2005 also produced our largest attendance ever of over 900 guests.
Hukilau 2006 also celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Mai Kai and was an amazing celebration. Not only did we assemble great entertainment but for the first time for any Tiki event, The Hukilau offered incredible educational seminars to emphasize the importance of growing Tiki culture and the history behind it. Jeff "Beachbum" Berry was present to educate us all on the art of the Polynesian cocktail, Sven Kirsten was present to present a slideshow on his upcoming book Tiki Modern, Florida Tiki Historian Geoff Sundstrom presented a slideshow of colorful images of Tiki palaces some gone and still standing from the state of Florida, and Jeff Chenault took us on a visual & musical tour of the great in Exotica music. Charles Phoenix was also present to take attendees on a historic journey through his vintage slideshow images - one of the highlights of the weekend!! A photo exhibit of hundreds of Mai Kai historic images and memorabilia was on display throughout the entire weekend of the event at the Yankee Clipper. Hukilau saw the largest attendance yet of over 1300 Tikiphiles as everyone came to celebrate Hukilau's 5th Anniversary and the Mai Kai's 50th together!
Hukilau 2007 saw a change of season as the event moved to June. We invited Robert Drasnin back to the Hukilau stage as he presented Voodoo II - again, the first time the album was played in its entirety. The Hukilau audience was memorized as we listened to each piece of music. This was also another year of exotic educational seminars as we saw a return from Jeff "Beachbum" Berry and the debut of his book Sippin' Safari, James Teitelbaum took us on a visual tour with some of the sites he visited and brought his debut book Tiki Road Trip 2nd Edition, Jeff Chenault was again on hand to educate us on the history and sounds past & present of musicians keeping the island magic alive and Disney Historian and artist Kevin Kidney presented his seminar on the history of Tiki through Disney's eyes and gave us a look into the Florida Orange Bird's history. This year also saw the very first "Sarong-O-Rama!" - a fashion show showcasing the evolution of Tiki fashions from the 1940's through today - a huge hit!! Again, the event attendance showed yet another increase.