Florida Keys visitors and residents can celebrate the bicentennial of the subtropical island chain throughout 2023, starting with the “200 Years of Paradise Kick-off Concert” that includes a drone fireworks show on Saturday, March 25, in Key West.
The concert and other activities salute the 200th anniversary of the Florida legislature’s founding of Monroe County, which contains the entire Florida Keys, on 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 festivities begin at 6 p.m. on March 25 at Key West’s Coffee Butler Amphitheater in Truman Waterfront Park with a program combining live music, Keys history presentations and drone “fireworks.” Gates open at 5 p.m. and admission is free.
Popular local musician Nick Norman will open the celebration, followed by a welcome and commentary by local leaders. At 7:15 p.m., regional trop-rock musician Howard Livingston will take the stage to perform his signature Keys-inspired tunes. Livingston’s sets will alternate with segments of South Florida PBS’ documentary, “The Florida Keys: 200 Years of Paradise,” that chronicles the dramatic history of the island chain.
A drone “fireworks” display will cap the evening’s attractions. Plans call for 250 drones to illuminate the sky over Truman Waterfront Park with imagery highlighting the Keys and their bicentennial.
“The Florida Keys that our visitors and residents experience today are built on our unique and intriguing history, and that’s what we’re celebrating with the kick-off event and throughout our bicentennial year,” said Craig Cates, mayor of Monroe County and a fifth-generation Keys resident. “We invite everyone who loves the Keys to join us in commemorating this milestone.”
Subsequent 200th anniversary celebrations 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 highlighting 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, featuring the creation of the world’s largest Key lime pie.
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. More information is at fla-keys.com/keys200.
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