The day began early. Very early. 5am early. My iPhone alarm woke me up in my friend Stan’s guest bedroom. Stan lives 10 minutes away from the Philly airport, and he and his wife Diana were kind enough to give me shelter for the night, and a ride to the airport, so I wouldn’t have to sweat the 90-minute drive from Bethlehem. Stan dropped me off at 5:45, I checked my bag curbside with a skycap, made it through security in only 10 minutes, and had plenty of time to board my flight for a 6:45 takeoff. Southwest Airlines flight 1655 arrived in Fort Lauderdale without incident at 9:15.
I met my buddy Bruce at the airport and we cabbed it to our Hukilau headquarters, the Bahia Mar hotel. Our room was ready early so we checked in, got settled, then headed over to our first event: the Jeff Beachbum Berry symposium at The Mai-Kai. After my first Mai-Tai and some tasty appetizers, Beachbum took the stage and gave a wonderful presentation on the dark days of tiki drinks, starting in the 1970s. He interspersed his talk with his own personal history of Tiki discovery, which made for a wonderful story. We also got a sample of a new drink he created in a collectible Beachbum Berry glass, along with a couple of other sample drinks. We were feeling pretty good about the start of The Hukilau, and I was happy to finally meet Mr. Berry in person!
After returning to the Bahia Mar and a light dinner, we attended the opening event in the ballroom. What an eclectic mix of Tiki entertainment! King Kukulele as the emcee serenaded us with his brand of comedic Hawaiian music, followed by Kinky Waikiki’s steel guitar, burlesque performances by MeduSirena Marina’s Aquaticats and Angie Pontani, and some rocking surf music by The Intoxicators. All surrounded by a marketplace of Tiki vendors with stuff I’ve never dreamed of being able to buy. Good times!
We ended the night with an after party back at The Mai-Kai, where I enjoyed one last Mai-Tai with my friends Beth Lennon (Mod Betty) and Cliff Hillis (Pop Star) and the sounds of Gold Dust Lounge on the main stage. A perfect ending to a great first day. Aloha from The Hukilau!