New Year’s Eve celebrations in Key West include gorgeous weather and a warmhearted “One Human Family” welcome for visitors eager to swap their heavy winter clothes for shorts and tank tops.

Key West New Year's Eve drag queen drop

Gary Marion, attired as drag queen Sushi, hangs in an oversized replica of a woman’s red high heel over Duval Street late Monday, Dec. 31, 2018, at the Bourbon St. Pub in Key West. (All photos by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

True to our offbeat lifestyle on the island, we mix things up a bit with several zany takeoffs on the traditional ball drop in New York’s Times Square.

My favorite of our New Year’s Eve traditions just happens to star a drag queen being “dropped” in a giant-sized red fiberglass high heel (are you surprised?). The shoe is eight feet long with a massive four-foot high heel, and it carries Key Wester Gary Marion (aka Sushi).

Our beloved drag queen and resident celebrity stars in the festivities while she’s suspended high above the crowds at the Bourbon St. Pub/New Orleans House complex.

Thousands of revelers are expected to converge on our “little slice of paradise” to celebrate the arrival of 2020 with the annual “red shoe drop” on the night of Tuesday, Dec. 31.

Just before the clock strikes twelve, a spectacularly gowned Sushi, riding in her sparkling ruby-red shoe, is lowered from the balcony of the complex to a dazzling street-side stage surrounded by crowds of cheering partygoers. (FYI, she’s also an expert seamstress who designs and constructs her glamorous dresses for the celebration, and outdoes herself every year).

drag queen New Year's Eve Key West

Sushi holds up a bottle of champagne after being lowered to Duval Street outside the Bourbon St. Pub to mark the beginning of the new year.

Festivities begin at 9 p.m. because, in addition to the drop, there’s always tons of live entertainment. This year’s extravaganza will be co-hosted by the very talented local entertainers “Just Jeff” and Bria Ansara.

The incredible lineup will include performances by international recording artist Beth Sacks and a special appearance by Stoli’s LGBTQ ambassador Patrik Gallineaux.

Street viewing of the over-the-top entertainment and the “red shoe drop” is free for all Key West visitors and residents. For a VIP experience, check with New Orleans House to see if any tickets are still available to experience the celebration from the balcony of the famous LGBTQ complex — complete with a private top-shelf open bar, restrooms and a bountiful buffet. VIP balcony tickets cost $200; call the New Orleans House at 305-293-9800.

I hope you can join us for this year’s festive event — which has become so famous that excerpts are often broadcast worldwide on CNN’s New Year’s Eve show hosted by Anderson Cooper.

Want to experience more Florida Keys festivities — or additional enjoyable ways to ring in 2020 in the island chain? Check out the complete calendar of Florida Keys & Key West events here.

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