Leave it to Key West to celebrate Independence Day with Key lime pies, mermaids, jam bands and, oh yeah, fireworks! Historically, the 4th of July is a day to celebrate the liberation of the United States of America from England. On July 4, 1776, our Continental Congress, representing the 13 colonies, claimed their independence and ratified the claim via the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and signed by our founding fathers. While the Revolutionary War would rage on until 1783 (England wasn’t going to give us up that easily), ultimately the States claimed victory, and a new nation.
Key West is the perfect place to celebrate a spirit of liberation: after all, we chose to secede from the union too, in 1982, under the flag of the Conch Republic. Our motto, One Human Family, also does work to remind us that while in 1776, only white male landowners truly could claim full freedom, in our island community, all are welcome to fly their flag, whatever it may be. Our island also takes celebrating very seriously and puts its own wacky tropical spin on traditional holidays. Rotary Club International teams up with the City of Key West to make sure it’s an unforgettable weekend. So check out the range of events over the long weekend, and mark your favorites on the calendar.
Thursday, July 4
Rotary Club of Key West’s Fourth of July 5K
Edward B. Knight Pier (White Street Pier)
Get a healthy start to the holiday with the Rotary Club of Key West’s Fourth of July 5K Run/Walk. Supported by Southernmost Runners, the race starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Edward Knight Pier and ends at the same location. The entry fee is $25 until Wednesday, July 3 at 4 p.m.; the cost increases to $30 after. Runners and walkers can register online or in person on Wednesday, July 3, from 4 to 6 p.m. or Thursday, July 4, from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. Stars, stripes, and patriotic flare are encouraged. Sign up at: runsignup.com/Race/FL/KeyWest/RotaryClubofKeyWest4thofJuly5K
Key Lime Festival Kickoff: World Key Lime Pie Eating Championship
Southernmost Beach Café 1405 Duval Street
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
*See Full Key Lime Fest Event Spread p. 42*
Do you have what it takes to be crowned the Key Lime Pie Eating World Champion? Register if you think you can devour a 9″ Key lime pie topped with a mountain of whipped cream faster than the competition. This world-famous event receives national media exposure and ranks among the sweetest competitive eating contests around. Doors open at 11 a.m. Contest starts at 12 p.m. Free to watch. Entries are just $20 and include notoriety, a Key lime pie and the chance to be a champion.
July 4th Rotary Club VIP Dinner
Casa Marina Resort, 1500 Reynolds Street
The Casa Marina Resort and Rotary of Key West team up for a fun and luxurious beachside evening, VIP style. For a $250 ticket, guests can enjoy a 3-hour private open bar, and a beachside BBQ, featuring seafood paella, flank steak, Ashley Farm grilled chicken, and assorted sides and desserts. Private seating means the best seats on the beach. All proceeds go to Rotary’s scholarship fund. Purchase tickets here:
Rotary Club of Key West’s Patriotic Party at the Pier and Fireworks
Edward B. Knight Pier (White Street Pier)
3 p.m. to 9 p.m., Fireworks start at 9 p.m.The Rotary Club of Key West invites all community members and island visitors to the Patriotic Party at the Pier and Fireworks Show. Bring the whole family to enjoy food, music, and a close-up view of the fireworks. Pulled pork sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, beer, and other refreshments will be on sale. Since 1976, the Rotary Club of Key West has proudly presented Key West’s Fourth of July Fireworks Show. This year’s show, staged in partnership with the City of Key West, will begin at 9 p.m. No admission fee.
The Reach’s 4th of July BBQ and Fireworks Viewing
7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Fireworks start at 9 p.m.
The reach resort is hosing a family-friendly BBQ on the beach, with a killer view of the show. Festivities start at 7 p.m., and the menu includes burgers, beer can chicken, ribs with mango-passion BBQ glaze, watermelon and tomato salad, and tasty Key lime tarts. $40 for adults, $20 for kids—contact the Reach resort for more information.
Fourth of July Fireworks Viewing Cruise on the Fury
Historic Seaport, Dock #3, 631 Greene St.
Join for a spectacular fireworks display aboard a Fury Catamaran. There’s nothing more beautiful than fireworks on the water. Fury will sail out to an ideal spot to see the display. Guests can sit back, relax and enjoy drinks and a picnic, including glazed ribs, hot dogs, potato salad, roast corn and watermelon. Beverages including margaritas, beer, wine and champagne are included. $65.95 per ticket, register at www.furycat.com/key-west/
Luau Weekend and Pool Party
Bourbon Street Pub, 724 Duval Street
12:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.
Clothing optional pool party in the Garden Bar at Bourbon Street Pub. Kick off Independence Day weekend with a sexy luau party. $5 well drinks after the fireworks display at Atlantic Side beaches. Entertainment by DJs Gary Nolan, Rude Girl, Jeff Moss and the Men of Bourbon.
Friday, July 5
Meet the Mermaids
3420 North Roosevelt Blvd.
Noon to 6 p.m.
Join for the International Mermaid Festival kick-off event at Havana Cabana. Hang poolside for a party with full bar and a tail-flipping good time. Kids can opt to swim with the mermaids in the biggest pool in Key West for $15; event is free and open to the public.
Under the Sea on the Green
Sunset Green Event Lawn at 24 North Hotel
3820 North Roosevelt Blvd.
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The Key West Mermaid Festival will draw attention to saving the area’s nearby beaches and teaching all mermaids to swim safely in their tails. A portion of the festival’s proceeds will benefit the marine conservation efforts of Reef Relief, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting Keys coral reefs. “Under the Sea on the Green” will be celebrating mermaid lore through local art, live music and community spirit. Mermaids and enthusiasts of all ages are invited to gather for a themed evening of shopping, artist pop-ups, live mermaid painting, notable mermaid appearances, airbrushing, face painting, food, drinks and live entertainment guaranteed to shake guest’s tails and flip their fins. The event is free and open to the public.
The Fourth of July festivities in Marathon are a community-wide effort. It involves city personnel (especially from the Parks and Fire departments), plus uber-volunteers like Randy Mearns (who assembles the fireworks show) and the Marathon Rotary Club. It’s a good reflection of the United States’ own beginnings.
“July 4 is THE American celebration,” said Marathon Mayor John Bartus, who will also play music at the beach. “The fact that a ragtag bunch of colonials spaced throughout this new nation could come together and challenge the mighty England to win independence from the Crown is certainly a cause worth remembering and celebrating. America’s diversity is one of its major strengths — no matter our backgrounds or heritage, we can all come together to work for the common good and make the United States a beacon of freedom around the world.”
The Rotary Club is in charge of two important features of the Fourth — it organizes, and we use that term loosely, the parade, which is more of a come-one, come-all extravaganza; and it runs the beer-wine-soda-water and hamburger-hot dog booths. The money the club raises goes right back into the community.
“Although we provide small grants to community organizations like KAIR, our main objective is student scholarships,” said Rotary president George Garrett. “This year we funded $40,000 in scholarships, including $25,000 to Take Stock In Children to sponsor one student’s entire college education, and $15,000 to 15 graduating Marathon High School seniors.”
All of the events take place at Sombrero Beach except for the parade, which begins at MHS, and ends at Sombrero Beach.
Here’s a schedule of events:
- 10:30 a.m.: parade muster at MHS
- 11 a.m.: parade
- 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.: arts and crafts
- Noon: opening ceremonies
- 1 p.m.: John Bartus music and sack race
- 1:30 p.m.: egg toss
- 2 p.m.: Water in the bucket relay
- 2:30 p.m.: Watermelon-eating contest
- 3 p.m.: Adrienne Z music
- 5 p.m.: Jade Storm
- Dark-thirty: Sky concert and fireworks
Celebrating freedom since July 4, 1776. Independence Day, the federal holiday commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the U.S., is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, baseball games, picnics and ceremonies to celebrate the history and traditions. Here in the Upper Keys, there’s plenty for families and children to enjoy this Fourth of July holiday, so get out and enjoy.
KEY LARGO 4th of JULY PARADE & PICNIC
Key Largo will hold its 44th annual 4th of July Parade & Picnic, presented by the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce. The parade, which kicks off at 10 a.m., can be seen from MM 98-100. Grand Marshall is Captain Spencer Slate, of Capt. Slate’s Scuba Adventures Dive Center, and this year’s parade theme is “Honoring our Ecosystem.” Awards will be given out for most patriotic, best theme, best business and most beautiful. Following the parade, a picnic will be held at Key Largo Community Park, MM 100 behind Walgreens, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. More information at keylargochamber.org or by calling 305-451-1414.
FIREWORKS AT BLACKWATER SOUND
A 4th of July fireworks display will shoot off on Blackwater Sound at MM 104, bayside, in Key Largo at 10 p.m. (weather permitting). Best places for viewing include restaurants like Caribbean Club, Sundowners and Senor Frijoles and Marriott Key Largo Bay Resort, all located near MM 104, bayside, Reservations are suggested because seating is limited; contact restaurants directly.
INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION AT FOUNDERS
Founders Park in Islamorada will play host to an Independence Day Celebration that’ll culminate with a fireworks display. The festivities, whic go from 6-10 p.m., will feature entertainment for families and children. Fireworks will light the sky around 10 p.m., and it’s something you don’t want to miss. Admission is free, parking is $5 donation.
TOYS FOR TOTS CHRISTMAS IN JULY
Florida Keys Toys for Tots will have its Christmas in July on July 4 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Stop by the Oceanview and receive a free toy for the kids to enjoy. You must provide proof of Monroe County residency.
SALUTE TO OUR VETERANS FESTIVAL
The Independence Day Weekend Salute to our Veterans Festival will take place July 7 at Coconut Cove, located at MM 85, Oceanside, in Islamorada. From noon to 6 p.m., stop by and enjoy some food, drinks, local art and booths. There will also be a raffle and prizes.