What To Do

It's Tiki Time

The spirit of the islands takes over Portland

By Hannah Doyle August 2, 2012

It’s official: Last year, Mayor Sam Adams declared August to be Tiki Month in Portland, so it’s high time to brace yourself for another installment of Tiki Kon, the annual August wave of island fun that’s now in its 10th year. Yes, you and your fellow tikiphiles will probably be mistaken for a Tommy Bahama look-book, but Tiki Kon pays reasonably straight-faced homage to the Polynesian craze that became an obsession in this country after World War II, when soldiers returning from the Pacific campaign brought back wondrous artifacts—and a big thirst for rum drinks served in hollowed-out coconuts.

The three-day lineup is heavy on booze, dancing, and collectables, but it’s not all mindless fun, as seminars, demonstrations, and discussions on all things tiki are part of the program taking place at the Jantzen Beach Red Lion, which serves as this year’s hula headquarters. Armed with a headful of knowledge you’ll go from novice newbie to Big Kahuna in no time. For example, you can learn to make a cocktail potent enough to pickle a platypus at the Desert Island Drinks class, and then cheer for local pros in a mixology competition for the title of Iron Tikitender. If you’d rather play it sober, opt for instruction on the art of Hawaiian Grub on the Mainland, or sew yourself a sarong at Vintage Fashion and Styling. Of course, you can then strut your stuff in your coolest cabana clothes at the Dance Party for Tiki Fashionistas, and perhaps win a prize for shaking as good as you look.

To the delight of all souvenir-seeking Tiki Kon regulars, notable ceramicist and Portland resident Paul Nielsen is designing this year’s signature mug. Naturally, there’s an Island Marketplace full of tropical tchotchkes for you to haggle over, but beware—the merchants are serving alcohol so save your sipping for after the transactions to avoid regrettable purchases—but really, who wouldn’t want an extra coconut monkey?

There will be some group excursions, as it’s not a proper Tiki Kon without the fabled home bar tour and pilgrimage to all the local tiki hot spots. Wet your whistle with a spiked sugar bomb at the Alibi; travel back in time to the ‘50s with a visit to the Aloha Room at the Heathman Hotel, and experience tangible tiki culture at Trader Vic’s. And don’t overlook the tiki-themed art show at Elroy Artspace happening now through September.

As for musical distractions, tonight will feature DJ AM Gold spinning exotic tunes between surf-music sets from Wavesauce and the Verbtones, but on Saturday the real music of the islands comes ashore at the festive Shipboard Gala. Rhythmic Resonance, DJ Drew Groove, and headliners Sneaky Tiki and the Lava Lounge Orchestra—not to mention beguiling gyrations from dance troupe the Dolly Pops—will be riding the tiki tide.

And after you’ve eaten, danced, and dressed like a native islander, all you’ll have left to work on is a bronzed skintone. That’s why there’s plenty of poolside activities all weekend long, because let’s face it, Polynesian partying is pretty exhausting.

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