Florida Keys’ Bicentennial to be Celebrated Throughout 2023
The Florida Keys are celebrating their bicentennial in 2023 — the 200th anniversary of the Territorial Florida legislature’s establishment of Monroe County, which contains the entire Keys island chain, that took place July 3, 1823.
From Key Largo to Key West, events in the coming months are to recognize the historic anniversary and recall the Keys’ two centuries of rich and vibrant history.
The celebration launches with a Saturday, March 25, "200 Years of Paradise Kick-off Concert" that includes a drone show in Key West. The program is to combine live music by noted regional entertainers Howard Livingston and Nick Norman, the showing of segments from South Florida PBS’ new documentary titled “The Florida Keys: 200 Years of Paradise,” and drone “fireworks” to feature 250 drones illuminating the sky over Key West’s Truman Waterfront Park.
Subsequent 200th anniversary events are to include Naval Air Station Key West’s Southernmost Air Spectacular, an April 15-16 weekend air show starring the famed Blue Angels and honoring two centuries of the U.S. Navy’s presence in Key West; a sea-to-table dinner set for Saturday, June 10, in Islamorada showcasing the island chain’s local chefs, fishing captains, artists and coral restoration initiatives; and Bicentennial Day festivities and fireworks Monday, July 3, in the Lower Keys — highlighted by the creation of the world’s largest Key lime pie.
Find more details on the Keys 200 kickoff here.
In addition museum exhibits around the Keys, annual festivals and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts’ 300-canvas “Connections Project” mosaic mural are themed to celebrate the historic bicentennial and the Keys’ multifaceted heritage.
Festivities throughout 2023 will illustrate ways the island chain’s vivid history has contributed to its present-day character and atmosphere, milestones that have contributed to its evolution since 1823, and the spirit and sense of community that underlie the Keys’ distinctive lifestyle.
Present-Day Sites Bring Keys’ Past to Life
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, presidents and creative spirits. Today visitors can explore scores of sites that recall their presence and showcase the region’s rich heritage. Read about them here.
Florida Keys Have a Heritage of Conservation
For more than 110 years conservation efforts have protected the Florida Keys’ natural resources, demonstrating a commitment to environmental stewardship and resolve to preserve native plants, animals, marine life and the continental United States’ only barrier coral reef. Find out more here.
Early Wreckers, Treasure Hunters and Divers Seek Keys Shipwrecks
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. Read more about them here.
Historical Timeline: Florida Keys & Key West
In 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon sailed the Florida Coast and encountered the Keys, which he called the "Martyrs" because he thought they resembled the floating heads of suffering men. From that time through present day, the rich history of the Keys has lured pirates, adventurers, artists, authors, musicians and other colorful characters that have helped shape the island's history. In every way, the southernmost islands are unlike anywhere else, something that has been true for centuries. Explore a timeline with highlights of the past 200 years in the Keys. Find it here:
A full-frame fisheye lens helps to provide a unique view of the Florida Keys' Overseas Highway as it bisects the Atlantic Ocean, left, and the Gulf of Mexico, right, near Big Pine Key. Photo by Andy Newman.
About two miles west of Marathon, nestled beneath what is now called the Old Seven Mile Bridge, lies Pigeon Key. A museum on the island chronicles the construction of Henry Flagler’s Over-Sea Railroad. Photo by Andy Newman
The Keys’ underwater wonders are particularly spectacular along the coral reef tract near Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park — America’s first undersea preserve. Photo by Frazier Nivens.
Florida Keys wreckers are memorialized in a life-size sculpture at the Key West Memorial Sculpture Garden. (Photo courtesy of Historic Tours of America)