Print ads aimed at LGBTQ travelers highlight Key West’s inclusive and accepting atmosphere. TINSLEY ADVERTISING/Contributed

A new video on the Florida Keys’ marketing website at highlights Key West’s inclusiveness by featuring local residents who provide various answers to the recurring question among gay travelers, “Is Key West still gay?”

Local bartender Daniel Gilbert offers one of the most telling answers.

“Is Key West still gay?” Gilbert says, pondering the question on camera. “Was Key West ever gay, or has it always just been One Human Family? Key West is just for everyone. We accept everyone here.”

And that was the point of the video created by Steve Panariello of Digital Island Media and commissioned by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

Panariello was perhaps an ideal filmmaker to produce the latest piece, as he first arrived in Key West around 2003, when the town was preparing to unfurl a 1.25-mile-long rainbow flag down the length of Duval Street. Panariello was working with a film crew that was producing a corresponding documentary, “Key West: City of Colors.”

In the current LGBTQ video, Panariello combines footage from the flag’s proud unfurling in June 2003 with interviews of current residents, including J.T. Thompson, who created the One Human Family logo and spread the sentiment on hundreds of thousands of bumper stickers that have since been distributed worldwide.

“Key West goes way beyond LGBTQ — it’s all of us,” Thompson says in the new video. 

Event planner Fritzie Estimond adds the nearly unanimous sentiment expressed by visiting gay couples. “You can walk down the street here and hold hands,” she says. “You can come here and be completely who you are.”

Those unscripted interviews with current residents provide the video with an authenticity that wouldn’t have been achieved with a scripted feature, TDC director Stacey Mitchell said.

“Our heritage is one of inclusiveness; always has been and always will be,” Mitchell told Keys Weekly on Jan. 15. “Representing and marketing a destination that provides so many with a sense of welcome and freedom gives new meaning to the word ‘pride.’” 

Andy Newman of NewmanPR, which handles public relations for the Florida Keys, said his team had discussed a number of potential ways to tell Key West’s LGBTQ story. 

“In the end, we determined it was best to use Key West residents to share their insights and we’re absolutely delighted with the results,” Newman said. “We believe the video is extremely credible, evokes warm emotions and communicates Key West’s ‘One Human Family’ philosophy, which we feel is the destination’s most important attribute.”

Print ads aimed at LGBTQ travelers highlight Key West’s inclusive and accepting atmosphere. TINSLEY ADVERTISING/Contributed
Kayaking is one of the eco-tourism adventures highlighted in the new documentary ‘Florida Keys: Protecting Paradise.’ BOB CARE/Florida Keys New Bureau


Celebrating sustainability

A second video, the visually stunning “Florida Keys: Protecting Paradise,” showcases the efforts of Keys residents to protect the ecosystems of the island chain.

The hour-long film premiered last month on Discovery Channel, and will air again at 7 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 19 on Destination America and at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 25 on WGN America.

Host Chad Crawford takes viewers on dives among the coral reefs, kayak trips through mangrove tunnels and fishing charters that highlight the connection between captain and catch.

 “We take viewers to meet the people and creatures who dwell (in the Keys) and discover how visitors and locals alike are connecting with (the) unique environment,” Crawford said, calling the Florida Keys an “environmental masterpiece that’s uniquely stunning and remarkably accessible.” And that’s a wrap.

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