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After the cultural festival at the heiau, we went to the Mai Tai Festival by Don the Beachcomber at the Royal Kona Resort. Though the whole festival featured a “Battle of the BBQ,” farmers’ and crafters’ market, we made it in time for some of the “Mai Tai Mix Off” and pool party.

For the Mix Off, we watched bartenders from around the world battle for the title of World’s Best Mai Tai and a $10,000 cash prize. Each contestant could earn up to seventy points; the drinks were assessed on appearance, taste, and whether the drink was still a mai tai. That made me wonder what a mai tai is, beyond an alcoholic cocktail based on rum, Curacao liqueur, and lime juice. Let me just say, I wouldn’t be a very good judge for the competition. All of the versions sounded tasty to me. By the pool deck, we also tested some cocktails — mai tais, of course, and a delicious pina colada.

The pool party was the most interesting part of the exhibition. There were people whose eyes, slurs, and impaired walking accurately matched the number of umbrellas they had tucked behind their ears or in their hair. Most were in bathing suits or coverups and were checking out the rest of the crowd (as we were). There was a lady with a scalp full of umbrellas demonstrating yoga; there were two women across the pool mimicking her moves in a mocking manner; we all watched a mom and dad drinking mai tais as their teenage daughter and her boyfriend were doing some sort of a lap dance scene. Most of the young children of the intoxicated were blissfully in the pool, floating on inner tubes. And, the show went on.

We really hadn’t experienced a Spring Break sort of scene on the Big Island before this, and it was a feast for the senses.

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