In the Florida Keys, the Fourth of July means lively hometown parades, laid-back beach parties and on-the-water fun — topped off, naturally, by fireworks displays at locations from Key Largo to Key West.

Fireworks Florida Keys

Fireworks are to light up the sky, and the palm trees, around the Florida Keys on July 4.

Of course, holiday happenings in the island chain often feature an offbeat twist. So along with annual salutes to America’s freedom, you’ll also find a July 4 event that illustrates the region’s quirky seaside spirit (and yes, mermaids are involved).

In Key Largo, the northernmost island in the Keys, festivities are community centered and traditional. Events kick off with the “Celebrating Freedom” July 4 parade hosted by the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce and beginning at 9:45 a.m. at mile marker 98.2 (in front of Anthony’s Clothing Store).

And at about 9:30 p.m., check out the annual bayfront Blackwater Sound fireworks celebration at Rowell’s Waterfront Park (mile marker 104.5). The dazzling display of shimmering lights is always an exuberant spectacle — so if you’re in the area, don’t miss it!

Visitors to Islamorada can enjoy the Independence Day Celebration at Founders Park (mile marker 87) from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Monday, July 4. The family-friendly evening is co-hosted by the Upper Keys Rotary Club and the Village of Islamorada, and it features live entertainment, food and drinks for purchase from vendors and (of course!) brilliant-hued fireworks beginning at dark.

Florida Keys family July 4

Family fun is planned at beaches, parks and other Keys spots over the July 4 weekend.

Please note that coolers and outside food aren’t allowed, but feel free to bring chairs or blankets so you’ll be comfy while viewing the sparkling skies. Proceeds benefit the Upper Keys Rotary Foundation.

In family-oriented Marathon, the gorgeous free-admission Sombrero Beach is the site of one of the Keys’ largest and longest fireworks displays, produced July 4 by the City of Marathon and the Rotary Club of Marathon. Spectators on land and hundreds of boaters traditionally line up for colorful views of the fiery dazzlers.

Before the fireworks light up the sky, join local residents for a full day of beachside activities — beginning with a 10:30 a.m. patriotic parade that proceeds from Marathon High School on Sombrero Beach Road (mile marker 50 oceanside) to the popular beach itself. The celebration includes food, cold drinks and family entertainment.

In the Lower Keys, Independence Day festivities take place a day early — starting at 5 p.m. Sunday, July 3, at Big Pine Community Park (mile marker 31). You can enjoy traditional community attractions that include games, family activities and entertainment along with vendors, food and beverages. Fireworks are scheduled to begin around 9 p.m., and events are hosted by the Lower Keys Rotary Club. Admission is free but  please don’t bring coolers, pets or personal fireworks.

 Now about those mermaids … mermaids in red, white and blue finery are expected to appear at Key West’s 4th of July Mermaid Splash event, set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Lagerheads Beach Bar, a favorite spot at 0 Simonton St. The shallow beach is perfect for a day of sandcastle building or relaxing with mermaids in the sun. Admission is free, but if you want to swim with the mermaids (and who wouldn’t?), tickets must be purchased.

July 4 mermaid Key West

In Key West, visitors can enjoy a lively “4th of July Mermaid Splash” event that’s part of the annual Key West Mermaid Festival. (Photo courtesy the Key West Mermaid Festival)

The fun is all part of the multiday Key West Mermaid Festival that’s scheduled Friday through Tuesday, July 1-5. The family-friendly festival features interactive mermaid adventures while raising awareness about oceans and salty shores.

During the sea-focused celebration, you can experience mermaid meet-ups, have swim encounters with the festival’s very own mermaid pod, show your sea-loving spirit at ocean-themed parties, and discover treasures at a weekend mermaid- and ocean-inspired marketplace at Truman Waterfront Park. A portion of festival proceeds benefits Reef Relief’s efforts to protect the coral reef ecosystem.

Of course, the island city also holds a traditional annual fireworks show — presented each year since 1976 by the Rotary Club of Key West. It begins at 9 p.m. July 4, staged from the Edward B. Knight Pier overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at 1800 White St. Before the display begins, you can purchase drinks and food (including burgers and hot dogs) at a booth across from the pier, with proceeds earmarked for the Rotary Club’s scholarship fund. Or if you really feel like treating yourself, buy tickets for the catered “Patriotic Dinner Under the Fireworks” planned for 7 p.m. on the pier. Dinner proceeds too benefit the Rotary scholarship fund.

FYI, July 4 in Key West also features a mouthwatering Key lime pie-eating contest that has become famous around the U.S. — but that’s a tale for next week’s blog. Stay tuned!