Florida Keys Celtic Festival
  • Celtic history, culture, food, performances and music await visitors and families at the Florida Keys Celtic Festival.

     

  • By: Julie Botteri
  • January 9, 2019

Marathon may be the midpoint of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, but it’s certainly not “middle of the road” when it comes to winter festivals. Upcoming celebrations blend sun, smiles and a heaping helping of creativity in the Keys’ balmy “winter” climate.

Scottish band Albannach

The Scottish band Albannach is among the headliners offering Celtic rock and traditional music at the annual festival.

For example, Celtic history, culture, food and music await visitors and families at the Florida Keys Celtic Festival. It takes place Friday through Sunday, Jan. 11-13, with most events at Marathon Community Park — and it’s sure to be a weekend of rocking revelry.

That’s because the musical lineup includes Celtic rock and traditional music by talents including the Scottish band Albannach, international super group Rathkeltair and The Screaming Orphans. Attendees can also anticipate an encore performance from West of Galway, plus a premiere performance by acclaimed vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Brendan Nolan and Colin Farrell.

Other attractions include sheepdog herding demonstrations, the bagpipes and drums of the Police Pipe and Drum Corps of Florida, tales from famed storyteller John Miles, and adrenaline-pumping Highland athletics in a sanctioned women’s competition and a men’s demonstration.

But that’s not all. Enthusiasts can also discover Celtic merchandise, activities for kids, food, beverages and local vendors’ temptations — including an Irish Tea tent and a Pub tent.

Pigeon Key Art Festival

The 25th annual Pigeon Key Art Festival is the starring attraction on Marathon’s February calendar.

Single-day admission tickets are available for Saturday or Sunday, priced at $10 per person. Kids 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult.

Art lovers visiting the Middle Keys won’t want to miss “a big show for a tiny island” — the 25th annual Pigeon Key Art Festival — Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 2 and 3.

The renowned open-air showcase will transform Marathon Community Park into a tropic-themed oasis of fine art, ranging from sculpture and paintings to pottery, photography, jewelry, creations in glass and much more.

Pigeon Key, FYI, is a small island beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge. In the early 1900s it housed workers constructing the world-famous Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad, which connected the Keys  and Key West to mainland Florida (for the first time!) in 1912.

Since then, the island has appealed to artists from around the world who have captured its tranquil natural beauty. And many of the exhibitors at the widely attended show find themselves inspired by Pigeon Key.

During the show, exhibiting artists are generally on hand at their booths — happy to discuss their work or offer demonstrations of their skills.

With all the wonderful pieces on display, most attendees will fall in love with at least one and decide to take it home. Plus they can buy tickets to win exhibitors’ artwork during the festival’s traditional art raffle. And there’s also plenty of live art and auction action featuring acclaimed Keys marine-life artists.

Pigeon Key Marathon Florida Keys

Pigeon Key, the one-time base camp for the workers that constructed Henry Flagler’s Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad, lies beneath the original Seven Mile Bridge. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

The weekend festival shines a spotlight on music as well as visual art — during a live concert set for 6-9 p.m. Saturday at the park’s band shell. (The band shell, by the way, features a distinctive coral reef–themed backdrop mural painted by local talent BJ Royster.)

Food and beverage booths, a beer and wine garden, music and children’s crafts round out the family-friendly weekend of activities.

Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Entry is just $7 per person for both days, and kids age 12 and under are admitted free.

Proceeds from the festival support the Pigeon Key Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness about the historical, environmental and cultural significance of the Florida Keys and their iconic island landmark.

Of course, these two terrific events aren’t the only ones that celebrate the Keys’ lively cultural community (for others, check out the calendar here). And while each has a different focus, they both spotlight the islands’ natural richness and irresistible vibe that continue to inspire creative spirits.