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Welcome home again: Inaugural free tiki party looks to celebrate art style on Hawaii annually

Updated: 
November 13, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — It’s a homecoming of sorts.

The guest of honor of Thursday’s welcome-back party — Hawaii-themed tiki art — has traveled far and wide since its infancy days.

Today, the eerie, retro-kitsch yet colorful style is featured in huge shows that draw in thousands of followers every year — the 21st annual Art of Tiki and 25th annual Tiki Oasis shows in California are recent examples.

But here at home, tiki art hasn’t been feted to such large degrees. Odd, because Hawaiian and Polynesian themes fill its roots. So why aren’t there shows in the state that made the tiki bar world famous?

“That’s the million-dollar question,” said Abbas Hassan, business partner with artist Brad Parker and Tiki Shark Art Inc.

While there’s no reinventing the past, Hassan and Parker are making sure it changes course. They’re hosting the inaugural Tiki Festival of Hawaii Island, bringing a lineup of heavy hitters when it comes to Big Island personalities and tiki artist names.

The goal is to make it an annual event that draws in collectors from around the world and rivals the biggest California shows that attract 30,000. Adding to the Hawaii-feel, the locale at Don the Beachcomber Restaurant and Bar is as fitting as a venue as can be.

“It has to be here,” said Parker at the oceanfront restaurant recently. “This is the epitome of a tiki bar. It might be the last one on the face of the Earth that’s in Hawaii with breathaking views. This is a spectacular setting.”

Parker is one of Kailua-Kona’s most well-known artists as well as one of the bigger names in the tiki art world. He’ll be one of four featured artists showcasing their pieces with Tom “Big Toe” Laura, Doug Horne and Ken Ruzic. The latter three are from California, where Parker used to live before he moved to Hawaii to chase his tiki art dream “and get closer to the source.”

Each of the artists — the four horsemen of the tiki art world as they’re known — will bring around 35 original wares. But what started as planning for an art show grew to become a pretty big party.

Musicians L.T. Smooth and Henry Kapono will entertain the crowd and celebrity chef Sam Choy will prepare poke samples on the house at the free event from 4-10 p.m. Around 1,000 to 2,000 people are expected.

And that’s just the kickoff.

The show continues with an artist meet-and-greet and wine and cheese tasting from 3-7 p.m. Friday at the Shops at Mauna Lani as well as another artist show 2-6 p.m. and a wrap party 6-7:30 p.m. Saturday at the same venue.

“What we wanted to do — we wanted to get the revenue into the Big Island,” Abbas said. “I mean, what better venue for tiki than Hawaii?”

The push to establish a Hawaii tiki base is supported by the Hawaii State Chamber of Commerce, one of the event’s sponsors.

Chamber of Commerce Hawaii President and CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara said it fit with the chamber’s mission to serve local, visitor and business sectors at the same time.

“We look forward to the launch of this multi-day Tiki Festival and see it grow into an event bringing attendees from across the state and around the world together in celebration of the vibrant tiki culture and in support of businesses on Hawaii Island and our state,” she said in an email to West Hawaii Today.

The visiting California artists, meanwhile, said they’re looking forward to showing their stuff in tiki art’s backyard.

“Stoked,” is how Big Toe Laura put it, while Horne said his greatest anticipation was looking forward to becoming inspired. Ruzic, well, he just wants to see what all the fuss is about.

“Have heard it’s paradise there, so what the heck,” he said.

Info: 430-1957.

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