You can trace its roots back to the early 20th century—hell, you can go back to Gauguin—but the whole tiki aesthetic in our modern culture just won’t die. While I’ve never been one to fully embrace the appropriation of Polynesian culture, I’ve seen its applications in art (Shag, The Pizz, Rick Griffin) and daily life (Trader Joe’s supermarkets). Hell, just living in Southern California means subjection to a mean-muggin’ carved idol at any given visit to a boardwalk or antique store.
Fans of everything tiki are spoiled by not one, but two local bazaars: at the Garden Grove Elks Lodge and Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach. Both lay claim to being the original in SoCal and even carry the same basic design on their fliers. So which is the original, and which is the best one?
Orange County’s first International Tiki Market Place was started in 2012 by Don the Beachcomber owners Art Snyder and Vicki Bassham. Originally called Tiki Swapmeet, the event’s name was later changed to reflect the Waikiki, Hawaii’s Don the Beachcomber’s International Market Place. In 2015, after a messy public dispute with the owners over control of the event, organizers Chris and Karen Garland decided to branch out. So now the two marketplaces coexist peacefully yet suspiciously of each other.
So aficionados of kitschy, lowbrow, exotic, midcentury-modern and tiki are the victors who reap the spoils! Happening two weeks apart, each event includes more than 40 vendors, live Hawaiian entertainment, art, booze and food. The only real difference is Garden Grove’s event will include a raffle drawing for a free prize. Mahalo!
International Tiki Market Place at Garden Grove Elks Lodge, 1151 Trask Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 534-0226. Sat., 10 a.m.-3 p.m. $10 donation; children younger than 12, free; and at Don the Beachcomber, 16278 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (562) 592-1321. March 12, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. $10.