Mahalo To Festiki
Several years ago, when Bill Winger opened Daddy Katz in Moraine, I met up with him to try and understand the clientele that he was catering to: the tiki culture. His shop seemed to be a virtual catchall of kitsch, with black velvet Polynesian themed paintings, Surf Ohio clothing, old bicycles and skates, hot rod memorabilia and a variety of other items that seemed to have little or no relation, but at the same time, seemed to encompass a larger cultural statement, all set to a rockabilly/exotica soundtrack. When we first sat down, Bill said:
“It does go back to a much simpler lifestyle. I think people were much more interested in enjoying life. Maybe they weren’t as stressed out. I don’t know, because at that time, I hadn’t even born yet. Now, people who have lived through that time period might tell you something different. But, we look back at those times and thing, ‘God, life was easier back then.’ That’s part of the draw with what’s going on with this.” Bill went on to explain that, “There are large groups that are getting bigger out there that really enjoy the old tiki lounge/bars. They enjoy a properly mixed drink. You go to a lot of restaurants and ask for a Mai Tai and they slam it together and say, ‘Here!’ A real Mai Tai needs to be mixed with proper ingredients and care and served properly. The people who are into the tiki culture appreciate that. I mean, you can tell a properly mixed drink versus this crap that they give you at some bars. According to some of the tiki sites, there are some groups out there. One of the groups is the FOM, the Fraternal Order of the Moai (FOM) and they are an organization which cultivates the old tiki bars and restaurants and the things like the properly mixed drinks and some of the lifestyles that it represents.”
Fast forward years later to 2009 and I find myself reviewing an event that fully represented this culture: Festiki. Festiki is the brainchild of Ron Kaplan, a friend of Bill’s and the creator of the cult fashion statement known simply as Surf Ohio. Ron’s concept was that this sense of lifestyle was more of a state of mind rather than a place, which he so eloquently demonstrated with his ubiquitous surfer riding the crest of a mythical Midwestern wave. Last year’s festival kind of came out of nowhere and there were very few people (speaking strictly of those who weren’t already in the loop) who knew exactly what to expect. There was a feeling of trepidation on Ron Kaplan’s part as he sought out sponsors for Festiki’s first outing.
“This is only year two and I can certainly remember last year going to potential sponsors and having many of them cock an eyebrow, saying, ‘Surf Ohio, what?’ or ‘What’s Surf Ohio?’” Kaplan said dryly. “It’s kind of like a joke: if you have to explain the punchline, then it’s most probably a lost cause.”
Yet, against all the fears of failure, the 2009 Festiki, by all accounts, was a huge success. It offered the public a radically different experience from the usual fairway kiosks and funnel cake trailers. Under a vibrant caul of rockabilly/surf sounds, the crowds mingled in a relaxed atmosphere of a shared experience. In relating to the creation of Festiki and the issues he faced the first year, Kaplan explained that:
“Well, I really kind of created it intuitively…the event almost channeled itself through me. As I got the idea for it, like a lot of big ideas, it’s a lot of small ideas over time that come together. I was, though, pleasantly surprised. Given the number of meetings I had with potential sponsors, so many of them looked at me like I was kind of nuts, I thought, ‘Gee, is that going to the public’s perception too?’” Kaplan went on to say that, “I think people got it though, and that’s why they came out in droves. The other thing was just seeing it all unfolding and everybody just having a great time…that was really heartening and I knew then that I absolutely was going to do another one. Of course, I had and have a great group of volunteers and vendors and suppliers helping me.”
This year’s Festiki promises to be bigger and better, without falling into the the cavernous commercial abyss that other festivals seem to fall prey to. Festiki is more of an organically conceptualized event where leisure and relaxation are the key elements rather than a frantic headlong run in an attempt to have fun. At Festiki, one can wander about, checking out the enlightening displays, gaze in awe at the spectacularly detailed award winning sand sculptures created by Ted Siebert, partake in Polynesian inspired cuisine or just lie back and relax as the waves of rocakbilly/surf music wash over you. This is more a communal communion of cultures as opposed to the individual desperation of distraction that passes for entertainment nowadays. During our conversation, Kaplan describes it as “the ultimate staycation.”
“There are a lot of people that can’t take that trip. I mean, you can’t go to the Gulf Coast because it’s all covered in oil, and maybe you can’t afford the condo in Hilton Head this summer for the whole clan, so for ten bucks, at least for a day, you can feel like you went to the shore and kicked back under the rustling palms with your beverage of choice and listened to some great tunes.”
As for the “great tunes,” you can catch The Space Cossacks, a surf revival band out of Washington, D.C. Then there is Vegas 66 from Columbus whose style is given the all encompassing description of “swingin’ surfa-rocka-psycho-punka-jazza-you name it.” Other bands include Tyrd Fyrgysyn and the MasterXploders, the Maderia, Crazy Joe and the Mad River Outlaws and, rounding out the bill, Dayton’s own Nick Kizirnis Band, whose surf music has graced several television shows. Other entertainment included Surfabilly Freakout, a troupe of Djs serving up a distinctively eclectic portion of music ranging from exotica to psychobilly music. The beautifully expressive Leilani Duteil brings the traditional hula dance to Dayton, accompanied by vocals and guitar work of Francis Llacuna and the characteristic sound of the slack key guitar played by O’ahu native, Curtis Silva. The Soul Fyre Tribe lights up the night with their martial arts inspired fire dancing. One thing to keep an eye out for is the unparalleled artistically destructive display presented by Kevin Moore, the “hot rod tiki carver,” who will carve a giant tiki by hand, then set it on fire using the flame thrower dual exhausts of his blacked out rat rod.
Festiki will be held on August 14th from at the historic Old River Park, which is located on River Road, with access to it from behind 1611 S. Main St. Admission is $10 for those 18 and up, $5 for students 10 to 18 and those under 9 are admitted for free. The events start at noon and run until after 10 pm. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Surfrider Foundation, for not only education in surfing activities, but also to keep the coastal areas pristine. Festiki is a production created by Surf Ohio and the Fraternal Order of the Moai. For more information, go to the Festiki website at http://www.fraternalorderofmoai.org/festiki/ .