The legacy of Florida Keys sculptor Stanley Papio, a pioneer of recycled art, is being celebrated on Earth Day 2023 with a colorful people-powered parade of recycled and repurposed artistic creations. The Papio Kinetic Sculpture and Art Bike Parade features sculptural floats with moving parts, decorated bicycles and other mobile works of art.
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.
Most people don’t know it, but Key West played a major role in the history of international air travel. In 1927, the island was the birthplace of one-time aviation giant Pan American Airlines. Actually, its aviation heritage dates back to 1920, when the pioneering Aeromarine Airways began America’s first official international airmail service.
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.
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.
“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.
Ever since the Florida Keys were settled two centuries ago, the island chain has been known for its residents’ adventurous seafaring spirit. Today, that spirit remains among the Keys’ most appealing attributes. And contemporary visitors can find it in museums and attractions, tales of sunken treasure and dive trips to famed shipwreck sites.
Attention, watersports enthusiasts: boating, fishing and nautical merchandise galore will be available at the 19th annual Big Pine & Lower Keys Nautical Expo, an eclectic market set for Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14-15. But that’s far from the only attraction in the area — other must-see spots include the Blue Hole and Grimal Grove.
From Key Largo to Key West, the calendar is packed with events designed to spread seasonal cheer — including a traditional Islamorada favorite that features actual snow. Yes, despite the Keys’ typically balmy winter temperatures, grownups and kids of all ages can delight in snow Friday, Dec. 2, during Islamorada’s Florida Keys Holiday Fest.