The holiday season’s festivities will conclude with New Year’s Eve parties throughout the Florida Keys — some featuring take-offs on New York City’s traditional Times Square ball drop that include “dropping” a drag queen, gigantic manmade conch shell, pirate wench and 7.5-foot replica sailfish.

Stuart Newman reels in a sailfish off Islamorada. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

But don’t despair; the end of the holiday season heralds a whole new year of fun in the Keys.

January is crammed with things to see and do for people of all ages and interests. A number of them take place in the Upper and Middle Keys.

For example, if fishing is your passion, gather three angler friends and enter the Key Largo Sailfish Challenge Jan. 4-6. A friendly but serious competition, the annual light-tackle event pairs professionalism with camaraderie as teams of anglers put their skills to task, vying for the cash prizes and trophies that await the top three finishers.

You can also focus on fishing Jan. 17-19 at Islamorada’s Cheeca Lodge. The Presidential Sailfish Tournament, the second in the Florida Keys Gold Cup Sailfish Championship series, features light tackle fishing for high-flying sails.

Not everyone, nor every senior, is an angler. And fishing is only one of many things to do in the Keys.

Stone crabs are a delectable, and renewable, Florida Keys seafood specialty that can be savored at an Upper Keys food festival. (Photo by Bob Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Food lovers shouldn’t miss Uncorked … the Key Largo and Islamorada Food & Wine Festival. From Jan. 10-19 you can enjoy libations, culinary delights prepared by Keys chefs, classes in food and wine pairings, cooking demonstrations, themed wine dinners, art and wine shows, and the “Grand Tasting” finale.

Key Largo has another treat in store for food lovers Jan. 26-27: the Stone Crab & Seafood Festival. Fresh conch, local stone crab and other seafood will tempt the palates of adults and children alike. Arts and crafts vendors will show their wares, cooks will give demonstrations, and more.

For art lovers, Islamorada showcases the works of national and local artists with the Third Thursday Art Walk set for Jan. 17, spotlighting the many galleries in the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District. Live music and fine dining are on tap as well — and the event repeats on the third Thursday of every month.

Islamorada is also the site of the Fine Art Expo Jan. 26-27 in the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District. In addition to meeting some of the artists and craftspeople whose pieces are displayed, you can enjoy music, food and performance art surprises as you stroll through the eclectic expo.

Upper Keys visitors and Islamorada residents celebrate the arts at Morada Way cultural events. (Photo courtesy of the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District)

Don’t feel left out if you’re a music lover. The Marathon Community Theater will present the Gordon Ross Cabaret Jan. 11. Featuring jazz, blues, pop and more sung by celebrated Keys entertainer Ross, this event is a first for Marathon.

In addition, “Hooked on Classics” will be presented by the Keys Community Concert Band Jan. 19 at Islamorada Founders Park. This outdoor concert is free to everyone, but bring your own chairs or blankets to sit on.

Theatergoers have a treat in store for them at the Marathon Community Theater Jan. 17 through Feb. 9, when “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress,” will delight audiences. This comedy is about five bridesmaids who discover common ground while taking refuge during an over-the-top wedding reception.

What else is scheduled in the Florida Keys in January and the rest of the winter season? For descriptions of all the latest happenings, just click here — and then make plans to take an “event-ful” winter break in the Keys.

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