If you’re a fan of sweet, tart Key lime pie (and who isn’t?), you can salute the Florida Keys’ signature dessert and the tiny fruit that inspired it Wednesday through Sunday, July 3-7, during the annual Key Lime Festival.

Key Lime Festival logoEvents include a Key lime pie–eating contest, “limey” dining delights, a wacky Key lime pie drop, a series of pie–making classes, and culinary and libation tastings.

Believed to have originated in Key West in the late 1800s, Key lime pie was designated Florida’s official pie in 2006 by the state legislature (really!). Its primary ingredients are condensed milk, egg yolks and the juice of the tiny yellow Key lime, with the creamy filling typically nestled in a graham cracker crust and topped with whipped cream or meringue.

The Key Lime Festival’s official kickoff is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 3 — and it features author and festival co-founder David Sloan, a historian and exuberantly creative spirit who penned “The Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook.” Appropriately, the event takes place at the Curry Mansion, a lavish property whose kitchen is renowned as the pie’s actual birthplace.

The festival’s best known attraction (and the one involving the most whipped cream) is the World Famous Key Lime Pie Eating Championship. It’s scheduled Thursday, July 4, beside the Atlantic Ocean outside the Southernmost Beach Café.

Key lime cheerleaders Key West

In Key West July 3-7, it’s all about the lime — with five days of activities, competitions, and tastings in the “limelight.” (Photo by Carol Tedesco, Key Lime Festival)

According to the rules of the consumption challenge, intrepid entrants must attempt to devour an entire 9-inch pie, topped with mountains of whipped cream, in the fastest time — without using their hands. (Yes, you read that right.)

While they’re offered safety goggles to keep pie particles out of their eyes, many entrants simply plunge face-first into their pies and start gobbling.

Guaranteed to be very, very messy, the free-to-watch beachfront competition is paired with family-friendly games and a Key Lime Vendor Village featuring lime-inspired wares. The gates open at 11 a.m. and the contest begins at 1:30 p.m.

Friday’s highlights include the Key Lime Sip & Stroll cocktail sampling for libation lovers, a Key Lime Bike Tour, a lively tasting of locally distilled Key lime rum — and even a fundraising bash where local notables just might get a pie in the face.

And whatever you do, don’t miss the quirky Key Lime Pie Drop that headlines Saturday’s events. Scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the gravity-defying competition is weird and flat-out wonderful.

Key lime pie drop lighthouse Key West

Contestants in the gravity-defying Key Lime Pie Drop must create a device to protect a small pie and drop the pie from atop the historic Key West Lighthouse. (Photo by Carol Tedesco, Key Lime Festival)

Basically, entrants are tasked with designing and crafting contraptions to hold and protect miniature pies. And then they must climb 88 steps to the top of the Key West Lighthouse and drop their creations — hoping that they’ll gently glide to the ground without damaging the pie.

Of course, that doesn’t usually happen. But though few pies land unscathed each year, the free-admission contest typically draws hundreds of spectators to watch the fun.

Other scheduled festival attractions include a Key lime tree cultivation master class, 5k run, daily lime-infused culinary experiences, a pool party, a historical presentation on Key limes and the pie they inspired, a wacky “Hot Wheels” race (!) and the annual Key Lime Pie Hop. The latter, offered multiple times Sunday, July 7, takes foodies on a stroll to sample five variations of the famed dessert.

Want a comprehensive schedule for the luscious lime fest so you don’t miss a moment? Just click here.