Events in the Florida Keys
The grandaddy of all events takes in Key West, and is called Fantasy Fest. Nothing is more eagerly awaited than the opening of Fantasy Fest each October. This Halloween celebration combines elements of Mardi Gras and the Miami club scene, resulting in a wild party filled with costumes, parades, and rum runners (Captain Morgan sponsors). Parades of brightly-bedecked revelers flow down Duval and Whitehead Streets while other celebrants toss beads from balconies. You’ll have to make reservations far in advance for this party.
The Pirates in Paradise Festival takes over Key West’s historic seaport and Fort Zachary Taylor State Park & Beach and celebrates the official end of the hurricane season. Spanning November & December, this melee of pirate ships and buccaneers culminates in the Fort Taylor Pirate Feast & Shipwreck Ball. Other events include a pirate market, maritime art exhibits, a writer’s workshop, historic re-enactments, and more.
The Island Jubilee, also in November, is an arts & crafts festival in Key Largo’s Harry Harris Park. Live musical and theatrical performances.
The Key West Literary Seminartakes place each January, and features panels, readings, and literary parties (this is Key West, after all!). There’s a theme each year, and the participants are respected members of their fields. Past themes were Travel Writing and Biography. They also sponser a Writer’s Walk, which is a guided tour of famous literary sites in Key West. It’s about a one-mile walk.
Other annual events include the Birding & Wildlife Festival in October, Florida Keys Jazz and Blues Festival (in April on Plantation Key, and in October on Islamorada), and the Florida Keys Heritage Festival in January. Marathon even sponsors a Florida Keys Renaissance Faire on Sombrero Beach in January. Don’t miss the daily Sunset Celebrations held at Mallory Square in Key West.
Key West also sponsors the Hemingway Days Festival in July. In the spirit of the Ernest Hemingway that Key West knew and loved, there are arm-wrestling contests, costume parties, and short-story competitions. Of course there’s the Papa look-alike contest, where white-bearded man over a certain age show up and do their best to look Hemingway-like. The costume parties encourage people to dress up as Hemingway charaters…Key Westers love to dress up!