Bearers of the tiki style get their kicks sipping mai tais while wearing Hawaiian shirts and listen to tropical music, pretending to be on a carefree retreat on an exotic Polynesian Island.

“It’s Polynesian culture re-created and bastardized for our fun,” admits Otto von Stroheim, creator of Tiki News, a fanzine dedicated to all things tiki.

But at the upcoming Tiki-Fest, part of the VacationFest expo, tiki enthusiasts will get a firsthand taste of tiki art and culture and be able to meet with travel agents looking to make their Polynesian adventures more than just a fantasy.

Tiki-Fest and VacationFest are scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, February 27th, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica. Admission is free.

During Tiki-Fest, von Stroheim will be DJing sets of vintage Polynesian music.

Tiki artists Bamboo Ben, who designs custom and tropical decor, and Crazy Al Evans, who creates items such as tiki chess pieces carved from wood, are expected to show their works at Tiki-Fest.

Other featured experts in the art of tiki include adventurer and tiki art gallery owner Doug Nason, who will present a slide show and lecture, “Tikis: Mysterious Icon of the Pacific” at 1:45 p.m.

Nason has traveled extensively throughout Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Indonesia to conduct book research.

In his travels, Nason seeks out ancient tiki statues and sculptures, graven images representative of the gods of native Polynesian religious beliefs, and the most easily identifiable aesthetic symbol used in the modern tiki style.

According to von Stroheim, interest in tiki stemmed from Romanticized depictions of the exotic people and imagery of Polynesian Islands that writers like Mark Twain and Herman Melville published.

The current tiki folk art and style as its known had a heyday in the late 1950s and early 1960s and has had a resurgence of interest over the last ten years egged on by the popularity of artists like Shag, who use the tiki symbolism and imagery in their works.

New enthusiasts have shown a fad-like fascination with tiki but von Stroheim refuses to dismiss tiki as just a passing fad.

“People have been trying to label it a fad for quite a while now, but in the last ten years I’ve only seen interest increase,” says von Stroheim.

“Unlike modernism or many other art and social movements, tiki runs the gamut of design, music, culinary arts and can encompass an entire lifestyle,” says von Stroheim.

He says he doesn’t consider tiki a retro interest, and that he buys modern tiki products, some vintage shirts and (yikes!) even tiki underwear.

The most popular drinks at tiki parties and gatherings are primarily rum-based drinks, and include the mai tai, zombie, hurricane and Singapore sling. The tropical drinks help set the mood of the gathering, says von Stroheim.

Von Stroheim says that a big part of his “tiki lifestyle” includes elaborately decorating clubs and house parties with tiki themes.

Aside from Tiki-Fest, VacationFest will feature experts answering questions on travel to various locales across the globe.

Presentations will include a travel photography workshop given by Don Gale at 10:45 a.m.; and an Alaskan music and video stage show at 12:45 p.m.

Marilyn Downing will present a lecture on traveling to Indochina at 2:45 p.m.; and Susan Sully will discuss her book, New Moroccan Style: The Art of Sensual Living, at 11:45 a.m.

Information, (310) 575-5540.

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