LAKE GEORGE - If loving Hawaiian kitsch is “sarong,” the members of the Fraternal Order of Moai don’t want to be so right.
The national social network dedicated to the preservation of Polynesian pop has found paradise at the Tiki Resort, the site of its annual “Ohana, Luau at the Lake” celebration.
“It is probably the last place of its kind in the United States,” said Mike Sullivan, a founder of the group who goes by the nickname “Bargoyle.” “In the ’60s era, Tiki was king. This is a temple to it.”
The upstate New York village, with its mid-century modern architecture and vintage tourist attractions, is a welcome blast from the past for the tiki-philes, who have been descending on the destination for the past five years like a shimmering UFO in a 1950s science fiction film.
“There are no ‘first-timers’ or VIPs here. ‘Ohana’ means family, and we are one big family here. Everybody has that attitude,” Sullivan said.
All weekend, the rum runs freely in Shanghai Sunsets, Mai Tais and Cobra’s Fang cocktails. Around 350 guests honor a retro South Pacific vibe for four days with theme parties, special drinks and Atomic Age cuisine — all for a good cause. Proceeds from the convention, which sells out every year, benefit the Easter Island Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation and protection of the cultural heritage of Easter Island and other Polynesian islands.
The action started June 27 with a “Return of the Son of the Thing from Lake George!” event and continued through the weekend with a full list of events, including cocktail mixing competitions and an evening at the resort’s “Pearl of Paradise” show.
For one weekend a year, the attendees get to scrap their suburban American identities and assume something a little more exotic.
“To add to the fun, we all pick wacky names inspired by tiki culture. Half the time, we don’t even know people’s real names,” said Caroline Roe, a founding member who is known as “Princess Pupule” in the group.
Nametags identify members with monikers like “Miss Pahupahu,” “Reverend Thumper” and “The Mighty Oz.”
Friday night, Moai members converted their motel rooms into individual tiki lounges with signature drinks and appetizers, like Spam sliders, for a room crawl. Guests were invited to travel door to door to sample experimental cocktails and themed pu-pu platters.
“The room crawl is the highlight for a lot of the people,” Roe said.
On Saturday evening, after the Polynesian dinner show and pig roast, an exterior wall of the motel becomes a movie screen for a makeshift ode to campy cinema of the 1950s and ’60s.
According to Roe, the weekend is meant to be a tribute to the fascination with island culture that emerged in America after Hawaii became a state in 1959.
“Tiki culture is really a mainland manifestation,” she said. “It mixes cultures. The Hawaiian and Polynesian gods all live together.”
Ohana is not the group’s only event. The Fraternal Oder of Moai also holds a Hot Rod Hula Hop, Chicago Area Tiki Tour and Northeast Tiki Tour.
Elena Brandhofer, who goes by the nickname “Lady Lava,” has come to Lake George four times for the event.
“It just gets better every year,” Brandhofer said.
John Minor of Rhode Island has been to all the conventions, and he believes in the family spirit of Ohana.
“I come because of all the good friends I have made through the years,” Minor said.
“Ohana: Luau on the Lake” will be held from June 27 to 29 next year at the Tiki Resort in Lake George. For more information on the convention and the Fraternal Order of Moai, go to www.fraternalorderofmoai.org.
Throw Your Own Luau
Summer is the perfect time to catch tiki fever, according to Caroline Roe, one of the organizers of the annual Ohana event in Lake George. To bring a little Polynesian flair to your next shindig, try one of these recipes.
Coconut Lime Shrimp Skewers
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 can (14 oounces) coconut milk
2 pounds large shrimp (26 to 30 per pound), peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh lime wedges for squeezing
1/2 cup toasted, sweetened shredded coconut
In a medium bowl, combine ginger, garlic, lime zest and juice and coconut milk. Add shrimp, tossing to coat, and chill, covered, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Meanwhile, soak skewers in water. Prepare a grill for high heat (450 to 550 degrees). Push 2 or 3 shrimp onto each skewer in a “C” shape (through each end); cook, turning once, until flesh has just turned pink and is slightly charred, about 3 minutes on each side.
Arrange skewers on a serving platter and sprinkle evenly with salt, a squeeze of lime juice and coconut. Serve with extra lime wedges on the side.
6 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 vanilla bean
24 medium-size butter lettuce leaves (from about 3 heads)
2 papayas, peeled and sliced
2 large avocados, peeled and sliced
In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, salt and sugar. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape seeds from one half with the back of a paring knife, and add seeds and scraped pod to vinaigrette (reserve other half of pod for another use). Set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour to let the vanilla flavor develop.
Arrange lettuce leaves on a large platter in a single layer. On each leaf, lay 1 or 2 slices of papaya and 1 or 2 slices of avocado. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad.
2 cups light rum
1 cup dark rum
1 cup 151 proof rum
1 cup orange curacao (orange flavored liqueur)
1 cup almond flavored syrup
1 cup simple syrup
10 limes, juiced
1/2 gallon fresh orange juice
In a large jar or drink cooler, combine the light rum, dark rum, 151 rum, orange liqueur, almond syrup, simple syrup and lime juice. Stir and top off with orange juice. Serve in 8 to 12 ounce glasses with ice. Makes one gallon.