Commemorate the Florida Keys’ bicentennial with a sunset celebration on the Middle Keys’ Old Seven Mile Bridge, a gala sea-to-table dinner in Islamorada, a family-style waterfront picnic in Key Largo, and Lower Keys festivities and fireworks featuring the creation of the world’s largest Key lime pie. All activities salute the Keys’ 200th birthday.
If you’ve spent time in the Florida Keys, you’re aware that Keys residents are generally easygoing and friendly. But unless you want to make them cringe, don’t ever say “kontch” — because the widely-used word “conch,” despite its spelling, is properly pronounced “konk.” Especially at the upcoming birthday party for the Keys’ Conch Republic.
We do things differently in the Florida Keys. Maybe it’s because the island chain attracts individualists — fans of the eccentric. But whatever the reason, our activities and celebrations tend to have an offbeat twist that’s pure “Keys.” And nothing illustrates it better than the way we recently commemorated Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day.
Celebrate the bicentennial of the subtropical Florida Keys island chain throughout 2023, starting with the “200 Years of Paradise Kick-off Concert” and dazzling drone show Saturday, March 25, in Key West. Events salute the 200th anniversary of the Florida legislature’s founding of Monroe County, which contains the entire Keys, on July 3, 1823.
Conch shell blowing, a time-honored tradition, is Key West’s most indigenous form of musical expression. Every March, the island’s Conch Shell Blowing Contest draws dozens of entrants who demonstrate their “pucker power” by blowing through the conch’s fluted, pink-lined shell. The 2023 contest is set for March 4 at the Oldest House Museum.
During the Florida Keys’ colorful two-century history, the island chain at the southern tip of Florida has been shaped by individualists, visionaries, shipwreck salvagers and environmentalists. Today visitors can explore scores of intriguing sites in the Upper and Middle Keys that recall their presence and showcase the region’s rich and vibrant heritage.
He peddled tacos from a three-wheeled bicycle when he first moved to Key West — and Tom Corcoran never forgot the irreverent, weird, magical island he discovered from that vantage point. In his Alex Rutledge mystery series, the island is portrayed with an authenticity that leaves readers practically able to smell the shoreline seaweed.
“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.