LAKE GEORGE - While some resort destinations with contemporary architecture are looking remarkably similar, Lake George has a remarkable number of buildings and attractions from the 1950s and 1960s that are now apparently prompting tourism.
People from all over the nation - and some from Europe - are now booking rooms for a September weekend at the Tiki Resort in Lake George to bathe in the retro experience that apparently now draws some to Lake George.
The event, named "Ohana - Luau at the Lake," is sponsored by an internet-based fraternity of Polynesian-theme nostalgia buffs, society leader Mike Sullivan of Connecticut said this week.
"The Tiki Resort in Lake George is the last of it's kind in the U.S., and we're really excited to visit and experience that Tiki aesthetic," said Sullivan, who launched the Fraternal Order of Moai. This co-ed group, 300 strong, celebrates the Polynesian-pop aesthetic. He said his group members, most in their 30s and early 40s, revel in the Sputnik-era Polynesian trappings of the Tiki Resort.
"We conducted a tour to Lake George last October, and we were just 'blown away,'" he said. "The Resort's big wooden A-frame architecture with a carport, the tiki statues and faux palm trees and the Polynesian dinner show - between the joint and the village, the place was just too perfect. Even in Las Vegas, there is nothing that even comes close."
The weird, diverse ambiance of Lake George, which includes "googie" architecture of pseudo-futuristic kitschy neon, glass-and-steel motels and coffee shops of the 1950s, also impressed the bus-load of nostalgia buffs in October, he said.
"With those Eisenhower-era motels, the tourist cottages and even that teepee, it was like driving back in time."
Sullivan said the Tiki Resort was the only mid-century Polynesian themed hotel with a dinner show review still in operation.
Tiki Resort sales manager Sandy Carr, stressing the new amenities of her hotel, said she was surprised but pleased to hear that a group was so interested in the Eisenhower-era Polynesian atmosphere that still prevails at the Tiki.
"I didn't know there were people out there that were this interested in tiki stuff," she said. "It's okay with me - if they want it, we've got it!"
She said Sullivan and his advance crew were excited about the carved Polynesian canoe hanging from the lounge ceiling, the bamboo chairs, carved wooden masks and statues and Polynesian-themed murals of the resort.
The Tiki Resort's dinner show, "Pearl of Paradise," features traditional flaming torches and swords, Polynesian music and South Pacific hula dances brought to life by Samoan performers in spectacular costumes, Carr said.
"It's a performance of native pageantry that's been going on for 16 years," she said. For about 30 years prior at the Tiki, Kaena Loo and Hurricane Hattie headlined a show featuring Hawaiian performers.
For the fraternity's Ohana festival in mid-September, five Polynesian bands will be brought in from all over the country to perform, and a special Polynesian menu will be prepared, Sullivan said. The event participants will each receive a custom-created hurricane glass reproducing the glassware that Charlie Wood designed in the early 1960s when he opened the Tiki Resort. Proceeds from the Ohana fest will go to preserve the statues on Easter Island, he said.
Sullivan said he now has bookings from tiki-philes from Oregon, California, Texas, Florida - and a contingent from Columbus, Ohio who are still mourning the destruction of the famed Kahiki Supper Club there. The legendary club, featuring extensive Polynesian floor shows, was bulldozed in 2000 for a Walgreen's chain pharmacy.
Sullivan's Moai fraternity occasionally conducts regional mini-tours to tiki-themed restaurants, but nothing compares to Lake George's Tiki Resort, he said.
Lake George Mayor Robert Blais said this week he can recall the heydays of the resort when Charlie Wood had young ladies dressed in exotic sarongs not only performing, but waiting tables and bartending.
"The Tiki Resort has always been a unique property, and this festival goes to show there's a group out there representing every interest," he said.
Sullivan said he couldn't wait to bring his group to Lake George.
"The village and Resort are frozen in time, and it's just wonderful," he said. "The word is getting out, and people are really excited to see the place - We're looking at a hell of an escapist weekend up there."