Wel­come home again

IN­AU­GU­RAL, FREE TIKI PARTY LOOKS TO CEL­E­BRATE ART STYLE ON HAWAII AN­NU­ALLY

West Hawaii Today - - Front Page - TOM HASSLINGER

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 Hawai­ifeel, 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 mee­tand-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 MenorMcNa­mara 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.

COUR­TESY PHOTO

Celebrity chef Sam Choy will be dic­ing up free poke sam­ples at Thurs­day’s in­au­gu­ral Tiki Fes­ti­val.

COUR­TESY PHOTO

From left, Ken Ruzic, Doug Horne, Brad Parker and Tom “Big Toe” Laura will be the fea­tured tiki artists at the in­au­gu­ral Tiki Fes­ti­val on Thurs­day.

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