“The Florida Keys: 200 Years of Paradise," a 60-minute television program that explores the culture and history of the island chain from the early 1800s to the present, debuts this spring on PBS channels across the United States. Meanwhile, three special events in Key West showcase aspects of the Keys’ two-century cultural heritage.
Help celebrate the 20th “birthday” of the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory Saturday, Jan. 21, with a family fun day and free admission to the renowned attraction. But if you can’t be there in January, don’t worry — the conservatory is open year-round for daily explorations, guided twilight tours and small-group “flamingle” encounters.
A subtropical setting and a celebration of cuisine and libations await food fanciers Jan. 25-29, when the Key West Food & Wine Festival is staged in the inviting island city. Acclaimed as one of the United States’ leading wine and cuisine events, the festival salutes Argentine flavors and vintages throughout its 2023 schedule.
Captain Matthew “Matt” Bellinger grew up in Sandy Springs, Georgia, studied marine science at the University of Tampa and traveled as a divemaster after college. Today, his company, Bamboo Charters, specializes in family fishing trips — while educating, informing and inspiring clients to learn and care about the Florida Keys’ unique marine environment.
Summerland Key resident Dave Vaughan, founder of the Plant a Million Corals Foundation, is known worldwide for his “Eureka mistake” that led to a revolutionary coral fragmentation technique allowing the rapid growth of coral. His technique is proving to be a vital tool in restoring and protecting the Florida Keys’ living coral barrier reef.
Revelers can express their creativity by donning dazzling costumes during Key West’s Fantasy Fest, set for Oct. 21-30 and themed “Cult Classics & Cartoon Chaos.” The fabulous festival features masquerade parties, costume contests, music and theater shows, themed events — and a lavish grand parade of massive motorized floats and elaborately garbed marching groups.
On May 18, 1991, Queen Elizabeth II paid a visit to the Florida Keys on the Royal Yacht Britannia. Thirty-one years later, as the world mourns the gracious British monarch’s death, it seems only fitting to recall that day — and Her Majesty’s encounter with the unofficial queen of the island chain, Wilhelmina Harvey.
Shipwreck fans, treasure seekers, history buffs and those who enjoy real-life adventure tales should be in Key West Sept. 2-6. Why? To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the sinking of the Spanish treasure galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha — with members of Mel Fisher’s family and “golden crew” who discovered the wreck in 1985.
Erin Muir, a sixth-generation Upper Keys native, is descended from two founding Florida Keys families — the Albury and Lowe families that settled in the Keys in the 1860s — whose roots run as deep as those of the island chain’s shoreline mangroves. Now, Erin is Mote Marine Laboratory’s newly named Upper Keys engagement manager.
There’s a new “Papa” Hemingway on the island where legendary author Ernest Hemingway lived for most of the 1930s. White-bearded Floridian Jon Auvil won the 2022 Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, the highlight of Key West's annual Hemingway Days. And Nick Henke of St. Louis earned top honors in the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition.