On Saturday, July 21, the National Aviary held its annual “Night in the Tropics” beach party, marking the event’s 16th consecutive year.

By Sarah Gross

The exclusive event for aviary sponsors and fans was celebrated with music, drinks, birds, and special events, including a virtual reality game called Birdly, which simulates flying like a bird, and an appearance from a hula group.

Doors opened at 6 p.m. for VIP members, who paid for extra features like free valet parking and access to a VIP tent with additional food and drinks. Doors opened at 7 p.m. for those with general admission tickets. All 1,300 available tickets for the event were sold out by the previous Monday.

Upon entering, guests could meet two “ambassador birds”, or birds that visit schools to help educate people about their species. There was also a performance by the steel-drum group, Steel Impressions Steel Band, tables to flatten and design a souvenir penny and booths for people to sign up for future volunteering at the aviary.

Inside, food, drinks and more bird encounters were available. Visitors bid in a silent auction for prizes ranging from an encounter with penguins to winning a large painting by Maria DeSimone Prascak of Maria’s Ideas. Visitors watched DeSimone Prascak live paint at the event. All aviary exhibits and enclosures were open for visitors to enjoy.

In the back lot of the aviary, food tents were set up with a live musical performance by The Lava Game and opportunities to visit the butterfly garden.

At 9:15 p.m., the group Tuika’s Polynesian Island Magic brought music and dancers to the event for its “Magic Fire Performance.” Tuika’s Polynesian Island Magic is a group located out of Monroeville, but influenced by Polynesian culture, as most members of the group have roots in the islands of Polynesia. The group has made an appearance most years for the aviary’s Tropical Beach Party. Their breathtaking performance was one highlight of the evening. The show concluded with “Nifo Oti,” a Samoan performance with dancers moving alongside a spectacle of lit torches.

The host of the group, Tuika, put it simply: “Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy the rest of the evening, but for now, aloha, aloha, aloha.”