Events in the Keys came to a halt during the pandemic. These festivals are coming back

·6 min read

The fun is coming back.

Yes, the Florida Keys are still seeing daily COVID-19 cases. But as more people get vaccinated and restrictions begin to ease, festivals and events are starting to return.

So, what’s coming? Events centered around live music, the LGBTQ community and even Key lime pie, lobster and barbecue and beer.

Key West has resumed its festival schedule,” said Erik Adams, the event manager of this August’s Lobsterfest in Key West. “The first major festival was this past weekend, the Conch Republic Independence Days, and there’s something every weekend between now and us.”

Here’s a sampling of notable festivals on the 2021 calendar.

Mile 0 Festival

When: Now through May 1

Where: Key West

What: The Mile 0 Festival returns this year to Key West with 63 acts performing at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater at the Truman Waterfront Park and other venues.

But the 2021 festival is arriving a few months later than usual because of COVID concerns. It went off in early 2020, before the pandemic began forcing shutdowns and canceled events.

A few of the bigger names have pulled out. Lucinda Williams had to cancel for personal reasons, her team said. Reckless Kelly and the Old 97s also pulled out.

But Blackberry Smoke, Jamie Lin Wilson and Wade Bowen are still on the lineup, an organizer said.

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Key West Songwriters Festival

When: May 5-9

Where: Key West

What: Made up of five days filled with more than 30 shows and 100 performers, the 25th Key West Songwriters Festival boasts that it’s the “largest festival of its kind in the world.”

“It’s all original music, that’s the whole gist of it,” said Charlie Bauer, the festival’s owner and founder. “A lot of people have been coming here for 25 years. It’s got a huge dedicated group of followers.”

The festival, canceled last year because of COVID-19, has grown over the years with as many as 200 writers.

“Of course we cut it way back this year,” Bauer said. “We’re following the CDC guidelines with masks and spreading people out and still trying to have some fun.”

Featured songwriters include Lee Brice, Brandy Clark, Liz Rose, Lori McKenna and Robert Randolph. The host is Storme Warren.

Music starts in the early afternoon and plays on until late in the night at various Key West bars, resorts, beaches and the Key West Theater.

“The festival revolves around five days and nights where live music bliss introduces crowds to the faces, voices and stories behind the songs,” according to the website.

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Key West’s annual Pride event was canceled last year due to the pandemic. But it’s on the calendar in 2021 for June 2-6.
Key West’s annual Pride event was canceled last year due to the pandemic. But it’s on the calendar in 2021 for June 2-6.

Key West Pride

When: June 2-6

Where: Key West

What: Key West’s annual Pride event was canceled last year due to the pandemic. But it’s on the calendar in 2021 for June 2-6.

This year, however, there won’t be a parade down Duval Street due to COVID concerns.

Put on by the Key West Business Guild, Pride features a list of parties for adults only, including a few naked pool parties reserved for men only. There are also two church services on Sunday, June 6.

“We’re still doing the street fair,” said Kevin Theriault, executive director of the Guild. “We’re getting an overwhelming response from people who are glad that we’re moving forward, both locals and visitors.”

The vendor-filled street fair will run 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 5 in the 700 to 900 blocks of Duval Street.

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Key Lime Festival

When: July 1-5

Where: Key West

What: Got a craving for the flavor of Key limes? The Key Lime Festival in Key West has events over four days in July.

Events include the Key Lime Cocktail Sip and Stroll the Key Lime Pie Hop and a scavenger hunt. The pie-eating contest is July 4.

The festival was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

“It celebrates all things Key lime,” said Nadene Grossman Orr, whose company We’ve Got The Keys puts on the festival. “There are a lot of small and individual events. There’s a stroll where you can pop around a few places and taste Key lime cocktails.”

A “pie drop” will go off at the Key West Lighthouse. Children and adults make contraptions to protect a four-inch pie and they drop it from the top of the lighthouse, trying to hit a bullseye and keep the pie intact.

“It’s mostly just hilarious,” Grossman Orr said.

A Key lime pie-eating contest was part of the 2019 Key Lime Festival.
A Key lime pie-eating contest was part of the 2019 Key Lime Festival.

Florida Keys BrewBQ

When: July 17-18

Where: Marathon Community Park

What: A new event in Marathon, Florida Keys BrewBQ promises to be a celebration of craft beer and barbecue along with live music and an amateur barbecue competition.

Put on by the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce, which in December announced it had canceled its famous annual seafood festival this year due to the pandemic, BrewBQ was started in part as a substitute.

“We wanted to try to do something for our community and our visitors,” said Daniel Samess, CEO of the chamber. “It helps as a fundraising endeavor for the scholarships we give.”

Beers will come from the Islamorada Beer Company, the Waterfront Brewery in Key West and the Florida Keys Brewing Company, along with others from around the rest of Florida.

Admission is $5 and children under 12 get in for free. Advance VIP tickets are $50 and include four admission tickets, four drink tickets and two beer mugs.

Lobsterfest

When: Aug. 12-15

Where: Key West

What: In its 24th year, Lobsterfest takes place the weekend after the opening of the commercial lobster season.

It features a big street fair in the 100 to 500 blocks of Duval Street that celebrates the crustaceans. Other events and live music will happen on a stage next to Sloppy Joe’s bar on Duval.

The Aug. 14 street fair runs from noon to 11 p.m. and live music on the main stage at Duval and Whitehead streets goes from 1 to 10:30 p.m.

“The main thrust is the local restaurants doing a variety of lobster dishes,” said Erik Adams, Lobsterfest’s event manager.

Adams said, “It’s a challenge to gauge how many people are going to attend. Ordinarily, it’s thousands of people.”

There is a Lobsterfest Duval Pub Crawl, a fundraiser, on Aug. 13, and a lobster brunch on Aug. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at First Flight Island Restaurant and Brewery.

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