When I moved to Key West more than 25 years ago, summers were slow and quiet. We picnicked at Fort Elizabeth Taylor (which some people STILL call Fort Zachary Taylor) and walked down a pretty much deserted Duval Street, passing our favorite restaurants that were closed for their summer break.

Celebrants wave a circular rainbow flag on Duval Street in Key West following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Celebrants wave a circular rainbow flag on Duval Street in Key West following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Times have changed and summers are no longer weeks of siesta-like leisure. Instead, they’re filled with fun things to do and visitors come down to spend balmy days and nights on our safe, welcoming island.

June 2015 will go down in LGBT history books as the month we celebrated the landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court. The historic 5-4 ruling was met with joyous revelry around the country.

Here in Key West, our community gathered at the new rainbow crosswalks on Duval and Petronia streets for an evening of cheering, tears, celebrating marriage equality, and just feeling grateful to live in a community that has for years recognized that we are truly “One Human Family.”

If you haven’t yet visited our two-mile by four-mile island, lying closer to Cuba than to the United States mainland, it’s time to make your way to a place where life slows down, warm Caribbean breezes caress the palm trees, and being gay is just a part of the fabric of the community.

Hemingway Days Key West

Ernest Hemingway look-alikes kick off the Running of the Bulls during Key West’s Hemingway Days 2014. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

I always recommend arriving in Miami or Fort Lauderdale by air, and driving the spectacular Overseas Highway through the entire Florida Keys island chain to the end of the rainbow. And later, when you have to depart, you can take the “last flight out” of Key West International Airport — allowing yourself time to enjoy an extra day on the water, in our galleries and museums, or just relaxing at a an inviting poolside or beach.

July in Key West means the annual Hemingway Days festival. It kicks off Tuesday, July 21, with a celebration of Ernest’s 116th birthday at the historic Custom House Museum, where a fascinating exhibition of Hemingway memorabilia is on display.

While many people travel to Spain for the annual Running of the Bulls, later in the festival you can walk to Sloppy Joe’s Bar and watch past winners of the “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest in full regalia re-creating a wacky version of the adventure on our Greene Street. Other Hemingway Days events include a 5k run, the annual look-alike challenge and a great Caribbean street fair.

Mel Fisher lab tours Key West

Tours of the Fisher family’s private artifact conservation lab are among the Mel Fisher Days highlights. (Photo courtesy of Mel Fisher’s Treasures)

If you’re in town this weekend, you can enjoy part of the annual Mel Fisher Days — celebrating the treasure hunter who, in July 1985, found nearly $500 million in artifacts and treasures from the 1622 Spanish galleon Atocha in the waters off Key West.

The festival runs July 9-12, with highlights including VIP tours of the Fisher family’s private conservation laboratory. The tour takes you behind the scenes to marvel at millions of dollars’ worth of authentic treasure, and learn how experts carefully restore and protect these priceless artifacts.

On Friday afternoon, be at Key West’s Tropic Cinema for the first-time public showing of video from the Fisher family’s video archives. Titled “Memorial Day to Mother Load; Who Could Ask for Anything More,” the footage takes you back to the 1985 discovery of the Atocha treasure — a bounty of silver, gold, emeralds, artifacts and more.

Until next time … have a great and peaceful summer.

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