Last year, a grass-skirt wearing cruise boat took to Pittsburgh waters. It was the first Steel Tahn Tiki Cruise, a benefit put on by the Pittsburgh chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG). The floating paradise raised over $11,000 for Rivers of Steel’s STEM education programs.
On Aug. 23, the tiki cruise is back for year two, with plans to raise even more money.
The origin of this tropical-themed cruise can be traced back to a group of Pittsburghers who love tiki culture. Pittiki, as the group of tiki-philes now calls themselves, has been around for years, gathering together for “secret tiki” (a speakeasy-like tiki party) in the days before bars like Tiki Lounge and Hidden Harbor existed.
Steel Tahn Tiki Cruise came out of a conversation between members of Pittiki, including tiki diehards Carly McCoy and Linda Weissert. McCoy, the Director of Marketing & Sales for Rivers of Steel and Weissert, the organizer of this year’s cruise, were chatting about Rivers of Steel’s STEM-based education programs.
“And that’s when we became aware that [Rivers of Steel] had a boat!" says Weissert.
The three organizations — Pittiki, Rivers of Steel, and the USBG — fit together naturally. The Explorer, Rivers of Steel’s boat, offers a comprehensive list of student programs, for grades 3-12, that cover environmental science, exploration of bridges, and a look at Pittsburgh’s industrial history. It’s also the perfect place to host a tiki party.
“It all started with, ‘Hey,wouldn’t this be fun? Do you think we could pull this off?’ And not only did we pull it off, we raised approximately $11,000,” says Weissert.
The 2019 cruise will be no different. If anything, Weissert predicts it will be better.
Steel Tahn Tiki Cruise 2019 starts with a riverside performance by Tuika's Polynesian Island Magic, a troupe dedicated to keeping traditional Polynesian dance and music alive on the East Coast. The family of hula dancers and ukulele players will lead guests to the boat for a second kick off, this time with an alcoholic welcome punch.
The Explorer will be covered in live plants and flowers — including palm trees — and filled with palm leaves. Three-foot high tiki heads can be found around the decks, along with fishing nets, Hawaiian parasols, and lots and lots of grass skirts.
This year, the cruise is bringing aboard four bartenders: Max Stein (Hidden Harbor), Maggie Meskey (Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group), Olivia Lindstrom (Acacia, Spork, and President of the USBG), and Jason Renner (Bar Marco). Each bartender will create their own signature drink using tiki-inspired ingredients. Weissert hints at cocktails using cinnamon syrups, coconut, tiki bitters, and of course, lots of rum.
Simon Chough of Soju in Garfield, is catering the event. Chough, who previously lived and worked in Hawaii, brings a menu of island flavors to pair with tiki drinks. There will be a build-your-own slider featuring kalua pig, chicken satay, and spam, pineapple, and egg fried rice. The night will close with prime viewing of fireworks from PNC Park.