This winter it may be “all things football” in your household, with a living room full of cheering sports fans or some very chilly outdoor tailgating. However, in Key West, we’re getting ready for the girls to hit the field for live flag football action.

Kelly McGillis actress

Actress Kelly McGillis, a former Key West resident who’s famed for her roles in “Top Gun” and “Witness,” lends her support and her name to the flag football classic.

International teams of women and girls are set to converge on the playing field for adrenaline-charged sports competition Tuesday through Tuesday, Jan. 22-29, during the 28th annual Kelly McGillis Classic International Women’s & Girls’ Flag Football Championship. I think this year’s expanded lineup is going to one of their best ever!

The Classic is definitely not your average ”run of the mill” sports competition. It also features cultural events, parties and acting workshops and performances guided by tournament namesake Kelly McGillis.

Yes, THE Kelly McGillis — the critically acclaimed actor/director, and former Key West resident and restaurant owner, who starred in “Top Gun” and “Witness” among other films.

According to Diane Beruldsen, president and founder of the International Women’s Flag Football Association, more than two dozen teams from the U.S. and countries including Afghanistan, India, Egypt, El Salvador, Sweden and Guatemala are scheduled to participate in the 2019 series of games.

The age range of the players is remarkable, with team members ranging from 9 years old to seniors who compete in multiple divisions, develop their skills during flag football clinics and enjoy camaraderie during watersports excursions and team building.

The women and girls may play hard on the field, but they also love to get out and have fun off the field. Social events include relays, arm wrestling, and lots of festivities and dining at local venues.

Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 22-23, Kelly McGillis will teach acting classes for flag football team members and also members of the public — who can participate by submitting and performing monologues. Then an “Evening of Monologues” event will be held with live presentations Wednesday night from 6-8 p.m. at the Bottle Cap (1200 Simonton St.), with complimentary admission.

Diana Nyad Key West signs jersey

Famed endurance swimmer Diana Nyad signs a player’s jersey during a previous year’s Kelly McGillis Classic International Women’s and Girls’ Flag Football Championship. (Photo by Greg Tromba, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Other highlights include the second annual International Women’s Flag Football Conference and a Women’s Speaker Series. The event will focus on life experiences and female empowerment. The amazing lineup of scheduled speakers includes Kelly herself; Sabria Mahboobi, who helped start the Afghanistan Women’s Flag Football League and will speak about women’s lives in her country; and radio talk show host and leadership mentor Courtney Cruise.

The flag football tournament’s opening ceremonies are at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, at the Half Shell Raw Bar (231 Margaret St.). Some of our Key West officials will be on hand to provide a warm welcome to the players, followed by cultural dances performed by participants from Central America, India and Egypt.

Just in case you didn’t know already from my past blogs, Key Westers love their parades. So in true Key West style, the annual Kelly’s Players Parade will proceed down the island’s famed Duval Street just after the ceremonies. Players dress in team uniforms or costumes and carry their country or state flags or team banners in the spirited procession, while residents and visitors cheer them on.

Games will begin at 9 a.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at Wicker Field Sports Complex on Kennedy Drive. Sunday features playoffs and the World Challenge X Game, pitting USA team all-stars against international all-stars.

The final awards ceremony is Sunday night at the Turtle Kraals Restaurant & Bar (231 Margaret St.)

Viewing of all games, as well as activities including clinics on how to play and officiate flag football, are open to the public free of charge. So whether you’re a sports junkie or spectator, this event has something for everyone.

Also, did I mention how easy it is to fly to down and see us this winter? We will have new seasonal nonstop flights from several major U.S. cities to the Key West airport! It’s never been easier to escape the chill of winter and enjoy our warm rays of sunshine.

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