Guests enjoy the evening of food and dancing at the annual KPUP luau. Photo by Robert Gay

Every spring for the last 11 years, a tropical fever of sorts spreads in the Patagonia region, culminating with a tropical-themed community party to benefit Patagonia’s favorite (and only) radio station, KPUP.

70 diners spread happily under the big mesquite tree outside Cady Hall at this year’s event, held on May 11, as a young girl breezed among the tables in a grass skirt. Tiki torches added atmosphere to the event, organized by Mark Nicholson, Fred Hanson, Bob Ollerton, Georgette Larrouy, Emily Riney and Jeff Latham.

The festive bar offered rum drinks along with juices, sodas, beer and wine. The bar also displayed a Bose portable sound system that was raffled off. Dinner included oriental-themed dishes, catered by Emily Riney with lots of volunteer help. As darkness fell, dining eased into dancing as the Hog Canyon Band plugged in their amps, switched on a colored disco ball, and fired up their brand of rock & roll to get dancers’ feet moving.

To help luau goers dress Hawaiian, the two weeks before the luau feature a sidewalk sale of one-price Aloha shirts ($10), and a few dresses, or muumuus.

Jan Herron has been running the sale, with helpers, for five years, and loves the playful interactions that happen when buyers come by on the sidewalk outside Global Arts, lured in by the colorful display.

Herron has been learning about the imagery, brands, and collector level of Aloha ware. She says “we could probably make more money selling these shirts online, but that’d take all the community fun out of it. Besides,” she added, “we do really well as it is now, and this year saw 650 shirts sold, bringing in $6500.”

KPUP’s next year of operation has been fully funded by the luau and the shirt sales.