FLORIDA KEYS — Local parades, beach parties and on-the-water fun topped off by fireworks displays are to highlight Independence Day celebrations throughout the Florida Keys. As well as an annual salute to the United States’ freedom, some activities surrounding the July 4 holiday also illustrate the island chain’s quirky independent spirit.
The Key Lime Festival features culinary and libation adventures Thursday, June 30, through Monday, July 4, showcasing the tiny fruit that inspired Key lime pie, the Florida Keys’ signature dessert. The mouthwatering Key Lime Pie Eating Championship, the festival highlight, is set for 1:30 p.m. Monday, July 4, at the oceanfront Southernmost Beach Cafe at 1405 Duval St. Participants with their hands behind their backs must dive in face-first to devour an entire 9-inch Key lime pie faster than their rivals. The event is free for spectators and gates open at 12:30 p.m. Visit keylimefestival.com.
Mermaids in red, white and blue finery are expected to appear at the “4th of July Mermaid Splash” event, set for 10. a.m. to 2 p.m. at Lagerheads Beach Bar, a favorite spot at 0 Simonton Street. The shallow beach is perfect for a day of sandcastle building or relaxing with mermaids in the Key West sun. Admission is free, but tickets to swim with the mermaids must be purchased.
The fun is part of the multiday Key West Mermaid Festival planned for Friday through Tuesday, July 1-5, in the island city. The family-friendly festival features interactive mermaid adventures while raising awareness about oceans and salty shores. Events include mermaid meet-ups, swim encounters with the festival's mermaid pod, ocean-themed parties and a weekend mermaid- and ocean-inspired marketplace at Truman Waterfront Park. A portion of festival proceeds is to benefit Reef Relief's efforts to protect the coral reef ecosystem. Visit keywestmermaidfestival.com.
Since 1976, the Rotary Club of Key West has presented the island’s annual fireworks show. Staged from the Edward B. Knight Pier overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at 1800 White St., fireworks are to begin at 9 p.m. Monday, July 4.
Attendees can purchase drinks and food including burgers and hot dogs at a booth across from the pier on Atlantic Avenue, with proceeds to benefit the Rotary Club’s scholarship fund. Alternatively, attendees can celebrate before the fireworks at a catered, ticketed “Patriotic Dinner Under the Fireworks” on the pier at 7 p.m. Dinner proceeds are to benefit the Rotary scholarship fund as well. Visit keywestrotary.com.
Big Pine & the Lower Keys
The Lower Keys Rotary Club is to host Independence Day festivities starting at 5 p.m. Sunday, July 3, at Big Pine Community Park, mile marker 31. Attractions include vendors, food, beverages, games, family activities and entertainment. Fireworks are scheduled to begin around 9 p.m. Admission is free but coolers, pets and personal fireworks are not allowed. Visit facebook.com/LowerKeysRotary or call 303-501-0233.
In family-oriented Marathon, the free-admission Sombrero Beach is the site of one of the Keys’ largest and longest fireworks displays, produced by the City of Marathon and the Rotary Club of Marathon. Spectators on land and hundreds of boaters traditionally line up for colorful views of the fiery dazzlers.
Families can gather Monday, July 4, for a full day of beachside activities beginning with a 10:30 a.m. patriotic parade that follows a route from Marathon High School on Sombrero Beach Road, mile marker 50 oceanside, to Sombrero Beach. The all-day celebration includes food, cold drinks and family entertainment. Visit floridakeysmarathon.com or call 305-743-5417.
The Upper Keys Rotary Club and the Village of Islamorada are to co-host the Independence Day Celebration at Founders Park, mile marker 87, from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Monday, July 4. Fireworks are to begin at dark.
Food and drinks can be purchased from vendors and live entertainment also is planned for the family-friendly evening. On-site parking will be available for a suggested donation of $10 per vehicle. Proceeds benefit the Upper Keys Rotary Foundation. No coolers or outside food are permitted, but attendees are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets. Visit islamoradachamber.com or call 305-664-4503.
The Key Largo Chamber of Commerce is to host an annual “Celebrating Freedom” July 4 parade between 9:45 a.m. and 11:45 a.m., to begin at mile marker 98.2 in front of Anthony’s Clothing Store.
At approximately 9:30 p.m., the annual bayfront Blackwater Sound fireworks celebration is to be held at Rowell’s Waterfront Park, mile marker 104.5. The dazzling display of shimmering lights is to be provided by the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Visit web.keylargochamber.org/events or call 305-451-1414 for more details.