Tiki, Big Island-style: Royal Kona Resort hosts second annual Tiki Festival

  • Dennis Mathewson and Brad Parker are two artists to be featured at the second annual Tiki Festival. (Tiki Shark Art/Courtesy Photo)
  • The Royal Kona Resort is hosting the second annual Tiki Festival this weekend. (Tiki Shark Art/Courtesy Photo)

KAILUA-KONA — To put on a great Tiki Festival, a few things are required. The right attire, music, drinks and art are all crucial, but there also needs to be the right setting.

Artist Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker and his business partner, Abbas Hassan, think they have found the perfect spot with Don’s Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Kona Resort. From 3-9 p.m. Saturday, the bar will host the second annual Tiki Festival, featuring local tiki artists and Hawaii-based musicians. The free event is a celebration of tiki art and tiki culture in its place of origin.

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“We’re doing it for the community and we’re doing it for the artists,” Hassan said. “And what better place than Kona, with its history of tiki?”

The festival will feature performances by Hawaii music legends Henry Kapono and Johnny Valentine, as well as entertainment provided by magician Paul Kozak. Some of the artists to be featured are Hawaii-based tiki artists Parker, Rockwood and Dennis Mathewson.

This year, Parker has designed an exclusive glass tiki mug for the festival, which can be bought for $45 along with the special drink, Tiki-Shark’s Ginger Diversion. As the festival continues, Parker said he hopes to create a new one every year as part of a collector’s series.

“Last year, we tried to go national and bring in guys from the mainland,” said Jeff Isbister, food and beverage manager at the Royal Kona Resort. “Now, we’re focusing on the locals.”

On the mainland, there are tiki festivals that have been running for decades, but the one in Kona is the first in Hawaii. Hassan said the inaugural festival last year was well received, and the organizers are striving to double the attendance this year.

With its tiki architecture and views of Kailua Bay, the Royal Kona Resort makes the Big Island’s festival standout from its mainland counterparts.

“This is the quintessential tiki-style palace,” Parker said. “Even the way the lobby is laid out. You have to walk over a bridge that has water underneath it. That was symbolic in the old days, of you having to go from the outside world, walk over this magical bridge where you could go to this magical world where you could unwind and relax.”

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The Royal Kona Resort was designed in 1968 by architect Pete Wimberly and features columns and archways designed by sculptor Edward “Mick” Brownlee, who both had an extensive portfolio of tiki-style architecture for hotels throughout the Hawaiian islands. The design makes the hotel, in Parker’s mind, the perfect place for Hawaii’s own Tiki Festival.

“There’s not many place like this left, so it’s kind of nice to be able celebrate this style of architecture, because who knows how long it’s going to be here in the future, but right now it’s here,” Parker said. “And it’s just a magical moment to be able to come to a hotel like this and celebrate tiki culture.”