Tiki Festival Long Beach – Ohana by the Sea

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Last weekend was Tiki Oasis in San Diego, the biggest Southern California tiki event of the year, but again I wasn’t able to muster the forethought or finances. (In related news: We bought a house!) Coincidentally, August 18 & 19 also happened to be the 12th annual Tiki Beach Festival in Long Beach, which was free, closer and being attended by some good friends.

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The event featured an island marketplace, food stands and Polynesian dancing and music performances throughout the day. Also mentioned on the Tiki Festival web site were tiki carvers and canoe racing, but somehow we missed those. Parking in the Belmont Shore area is not fun, but we were able to snag a space in the Granada Beach lot (free for the festival) since people were starting to pack up by the time we arrived around 4ish.

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Hawaiian chef Sam Choy’s food truck, Pineapple Express, has just started roaming the streets of Los Angeles so it was fitting for it to be there. The truck was serving up ahi poke, loco moco, pineapple upside down cake and several other dishes.

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The rest of the “Aloha Food Court” had a good range of grub, from sausages and garlic fries to Hawaiian BBQ, authentic shave ice and malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts) from Dough Dough’s. The only bummer was several vendors ran out of food by late afternoon.

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I had prepared myself for the kind of price gouging we encounter at the L.A. County Fair, but was pleasantly surprised to find that spam musubi was just $2.50. It was a perfect mid-afternoon snack.

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This late summer heat wave was still in full force, so the best way to keep cool was with a frozen piña colada ($5). They were non-alcoholic, alas, but I did appreciate the effort they put into garnishing each drink.

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The sidewalk leading to the food court and stage was lined with booths for island-inspired jewelry, aloha shirts and Astroturf (?!). A few folks were selling handcarved tikis, while others displayed the common imported tiki masks similar to the ones I see at Terry’s Palms & Tikis at the fair.

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In my eyes the most interesting of the vendors was Bow-Tiki, which operates a vintage boutique that opened earlier this year in the East Village Arts District of Long Beach. I liked how they blend tiki with turn-of-the-century style.

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They had set up their space to look like a bazaar tent with bohemian rugs, antique storage trunks and tiki and nautical trinkets. Erin, one of the owners, told me it was sort of a mini version of their store.

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Their wares were a mix of vintage, handmade and new but retro-inspired attire. My favorites were the girly t-shirts from Japanese company Queen Bee. There were several cute designs, including mermaids, fish, cat-eye glasses and corsets.

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Around 7 p.m. we brought out our blanket and beach chairs on to the sand to relax while we waited for the sunset and the finale of the fire knife dancers.

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Next year, if we’re not at Tiki Oasis, we might just be back here.

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