AutoMatters & More: Tiki Oasis & Car Show 2019

Tiki Oasis Car Show artwork
(Jan Wagner)

When I first started covering Tiki Oasis several years ago, I was curious to see a South Seas-inspired car show. Of course, Tiki Oasis is much more than that.

Tiki Oasis is a five-day, tiki-themed celebration held every summer in San Diego. Its wide variety of entertainment, programs and things to see and do are South seas-inspired. Participants are encouraged to dress tiki style, and they do!

Tiki Oasis stage show
Tiki Oasis stage show
(Jan Wagner)

This year’s theme was “Catch the New Wave!” – a tip of the hat to surf music. In these excerpts from the Tiki Oasis program, Otto and Baby Doe (the Von Stroheims), icons of Tiki Oasis, wrote: “In the 1980s, simultaneous to New Wave, was the “Second Wave” in the swell of Surf Music history. This new sound in Surf incorporated the contemporary Punk and New Wave ethos of louder and faster, and these Surf bands appeared on bills alongside Punk and New Wave bands. Many New Wave bands favored simple riffs found in ‘50s Rockabilly and ‘60s Surf Music. Some had very overt Surf influences and there was a huge early 1980s Rockabilly Revival.”

The opening night Tiki Oasis party was held at the tiki-themed Bali Hai Restaurant, beside the waterfront on Shelter Island. As people renewed old acquaintances, a hearty island buffet was served. Long-time Emcee King Kukulele, wearing his customary straw hat and grass skirt and playing his ukulele, welcomed us. The evening’s entertainment included Jesika von Rabbit, The Greasy Gills, Los Freneticos, Los Tiki Phantoms and disk jockeys.

Tiki Oasis poolside
(Jan Wagner)

On Thursday Tiki Oasis moved inland to the lush tropical grounds of the Crowne Plaza resort (formerly The Hanalei Hotel) in Mission Valley, with its exquisite waterfalls and lava rock pools. Visualize a laid-back, South Seas-inspired island paradise.

Poolside, go-go dancers entertained. Finalist contestants for the title of Miss Tiki Oasis 2019 took part in the annual Poolside Strut. Keeping a watchful eye over the proceedings was a huge, smoking tiki with glowing red eyes.

The schedule of activities was jam-packed. It included informative seminars, music (live and with DJs), hula dancing with DiLovely, a tiki-themed art show & sale, tiki tastings, a luau with the Motu Nehenehe Polynesian Dancers, a beauty contest, a costume contest and a car show. For those adults who somehow found enough energy to stay up late, there were room parties and midnight burlesque shows.

The seminars offered something for everyone. I am partial to arts & crafts, so I particularly enjoyed the “Tiki on Black Paper with Eric October” class, in which I made my very own Tiki drawing, using colored pencils on black paper; and another seminar called “Hale Akamai, Part 2: Foam Tiki and Panel Carvings with Eric Hainline.”

Other intriguing seminar topics included: “Lalani Hawaiian Village Waikiki,” “Walt Disney Discovers Tiki,” “Secret Diaries of a Clifton’s Cafeteria Camera Girl,” “New Wave Ukulele Strum & Sing-Along,” “Liquid Sky – 80s Make-Up Class” and “From Punk to Urban Archeologist: My Tiki Evolution.”

Jan with his “Tiki on Black Paper” art creation.
Jan with his “Tiki on Black Paper” art creation.
(Jan Wagner)

Rum is a staple of the tiki culture. Rum and other spirits were well represented at Tiki Oasis, with sponsored special events that included “Tiki Tasting,” “Wine Appreciation,” “Create a World of Tiki in your Home Bar,” “Ingredients Matter: Guide to Drinking Well,” the “10th Annual Tiki Oasis Sip ‘n’ Shop,” “The Home Bar Guide to tropical Cocktails,” and the always entertaining “Tiki Oasis Bartender Battle.”

Nightly showcases featured music and other entertainment. There were far too many musical entertainers to mention, but several were the Tikiyaki Orchestra (“Swingin’ Sounds for the Jungle Jetset”), The Hula Girls, The Tiny Bubbles (“the music of Devo gone Hawaiian”), and disk jockeys Paul Cinnamon, Lee Joseph, Vanessa Burgundy, Becky & Nikki (“Bubblegum & Other Delights”) and Tiki Thomas.

There were also a variety of activities for kids.

Woodies at the Tiki Oasis Car Show
(Jan Wagner)

The curated car show, in the Crowne Plaza parking lot, was free to the public. Also present there were food trucks and Tiki Oasis merchandise, a demonstration of tiki carving by OB Tiki, music and more.

Not to be missed (but, unfortunately, I did just that, due to my participation with my car in the “Main Street America Car Show” that same day), was a vintage slide show presented with pizzazz and plenty of laughs by Charles Phoenix. This year’s show was called “Las Vegasland.”

To make plans for next year’s Tiki Oasis, begin by visiting

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Copyright © 2019 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #605