It’s happening, people. We’re coming out of the coronavirus fog and can see what’s on the horizon: good times. The Florida Keys Brew BQ set for Saturday and Sunday, July 17 and 18 at Marathon Community Park. It’s a chance for the community — and visitors — to come together for a good time and a good cause. 

“We just can’t take the past year lying down,” said Daniel Samess, CEO of the Marathon Chamber of Commerce. “We had to cancel the massive and popular Original Marathon Seafood Festival scheduled every March. But the fact is that events like these fund the needs of our most vulnerable — whether that’s a food pantry or first-time college students from Marathon.”

Organizers have been working diligently for months to line up the following: amateur grillmasters willing to put their cooking on the line for a friendly competition, live music, kids games, vendors selling cool stuff and boats. 

Samess said the festival food will be provided by two “big rig” barbecue vendors — those massive trucks hauling massive grills — a local taco eatery (La Isla Tacos) and the Green Turtle Inn’s food truck from the Upper Keys. 

The amateur cooking competition has two categories: pulled pork and brisket. The winners of the best pig dish will be announced on Saturday at 9 p.m. and the best beef dish will be Sunday at 3 p.m. 

Of course, guests need something to wash down all that great food. Florida Keys BrewBQ will feature 20 craft beers from breweries like Islamorada Beer Company, Florida Keys Brewing Company and Key West’s Waterfront Brewery. But local amateur beer makers refuse to be left out of the fun; the Southernmost Homebrew Club is having its own taste-off. 

Festival organizers are aiming for a mid-size crowd of vendors selling everything from fishing shirts to art to information booths staffed by local businesses and nonprofits. 

The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 17 and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 18. Admission is $5 per person, per day, and children under 12 are free. The Marathon Chamber of Commerce is also selling VIP tickets online for $50 that includes admission for four people, four drink tickets and two event beer mugs. 

The chamber still has vendor and volunteer opportunities and is accepting more amateur cooking contestants. For more information, call 305-743-5417. 

She’s Country

Besides food and beer, the Florida Keys Brew BQ also has two days of live music scheduled for the festival in mid-July, most notably, Bridgette Tatum. She wrote the 2009 hit “She’s Country,” made famous by Jason Aldean. In 2010, Tatum’s song “Loud” was selected as the official theme song for ACC football’s 2010 season. She’s also written hits for the likes of Randy Houser and Kristy Lee Cook, plus her own originals.

Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.