There’s no better way to celebrate the Florida Keys’ 200th birthday than with Key lime pie, the island chain’s signature dessert — particularly if that Key lime pie is the world’s biggest!
And there’s no better PLACE to celebrate the auspicious anniversary than at Big Pine Community Park, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at the end of Sands Road on Big Pine Key.
The July 3 festivities commemorate the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Keys’ Monroe County.
Yes, Florida Keys visitors and residents are commemorating the island chain’s bicentennial with an event Monday, July 3, that will include the creation of the world’s largest Key lime pie — plus a spectacular laser light show and fireworks extravaganza.
The once-in-a-lifetime festivities salute the 200th anniversary of the Florida Territorial Legislature’s founding of Monroe County, which encompasses the entire Florida Keys, on July 3, 1823. And while “Keys 200” events have been staged around the island chain leading up to the anniversary date, this is the culmination — a patriotic family-friendly gathering set for 5-10 p.m. at the park, exactly 200 years to the day after Monroe County’s establishment.
“We’re very excited to celebrate with Monroe County on the actual date of the 200th anniversary,” said Julie Schilling, president of the Rotary Club of the Lower Keys that’s presenting the festivities along with Monroe County.
It’s no wonder the event’s highlight is to be the preparation and serving of the world’s largest Key lime pie, because the tart-yet-sweet dessert is woven into the fabric of Florida Keys history.
Few people visit the Florida Keys without sampling a few pieces of Key lime pie, renowned as the island chain’s signature dessert. It was even voted the official pie of Florida by the state legislature in 2006.
In fact, historians believe the iconic pie was “born” in Key West in the late 1800s, and it’s so popular that few people visit the Keys without sampling at least one slice. It was even designated Florida’s official pie by the state legislature in 2006.
The main ingredients are condensed milk, egg yolks and the juice of tiny yellow Key limes, with the creamy filling typically nestled in a graham cracker crust and topped with whipped cream. And as you can imagine, a LOT of those ingredients will be required for the 200th anniversary pie.
The gargantuan confection is to be created by Key West chefs Kermit Carpenter and Paul Menta (with a very special cohort, according to rumor), and it’s expected to measure a whopping 13.14 feet in diameter — significantly larger than previous record-setting pies.
The recipe calls for juice from several thousand Key limes, more than 55 gallons of sweetened condensed milk and over 200 pounds of graham crackers.
And after it’s completed — and certified in a resolution by Monroe County commissioners — the pie will be served to attendees at the bicentennial gathering.
Fireworks are to light up the sky at the close of the Lower Keys’ bicentennial festivities.
Luscious though it will be, the supersized pie isn’t the only attraction at the Big Pine Key event. Revelers can expect a photo booth; bounce house, slide and games for kids; and food trucks offering fare and beverages for purchase.
Additional high-energy activities include live music by local band Brian Roberts and the Prime Movers, as well as former American Idol finalist (and Lower Keys resident) Kristen McNamara.
And the exuberant event will end with a fantastic fireworks display — accompanied by a patriotic laser light show created by Key West Lasers, using a series of high-powered performance lasers to generate a colorful mid-air presentation.
This one-time-only occasion definitely shouldn’t be missed. But if you can’t be in the Lower Keys in early July, there are still chances to catch a bicentennial happening. Throughout 2023, museum exhibits and festivals are being themed to commemorate the anniversary … and the Florida Keys’ extraordinary two-century heritage.