20 April 2023

FLORIDA KEYS  Florida Keys visitors and residents can commemorate the subtropical island chain’s bicentennial with events including a sunset celebration on the Middle Keys’ Old Seven Mile Bridge, a gala sea-to-table dinner in Islamorada, a family-style waterfront picnic in Key Largo and Lower Keys festivities and fireworks highlighted by the creation of the world’s largest Key lime pie.


The activities salute the 200th anniversary of the Florida Territorial Legislature’s founding of Monroe County, which contains the entire Florida Keys, on July 3, 1823. As well as recognizing the historic anniversary, they spotlight unique aspects of the Keys’ vibrant two-century history.


Commemorative events begin Friday, May 19, with a 6 p.m. gathering on the Old Seven Mile Bridge, once the centerpiece of the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad that operated from 1912 to 1935. Attractions are to include live music and dancing, local artists painting on-site, catered tidbits by the Marathon High School culinary class and a sunset toast with vodka distilled from breadfruit grown at the Lower Keys’ Grimal Grove. Past and present commissioners who helped guide Monroe County are to be honored during the evening. Attendees can park at Marathon’s 7 Mile Marina property, 1090 Overseas Highway, with trolley service to the bridge provided by the Pigeon Key Foundation.


Next on the bicentennial schedule is a culinary event that highlights Florida Keys seafood, the talents of celebrity and local chefs, and the region’s longstanding fishing industry and captains. Set for Saturday, June 10, the Sea to Table Dinner is to take place at Bud N’ Mary’s Marina at 79851 Overseas Highway in Islamorada. A rooftop sunset reception is set for 6:30 p.m., while the dinner is to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the property’s spacious Boat Barn. As well as fine cuisine, attendees can discover Keys artists’ work, historic photos and the coral nursery at Bud N’ Mary’s. Local fishing captains are to host each table. Seating is limited and reservations are required; call the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce at 305-664-4503.

The following Saturday, June 17, brings a picnic beginning at 6 p.m. at Rowell’s Waterfront Park, located at 104550 Overseas Highway in Key Largo. The evening is to feature live music by the Mangrove Swamp Band and others, fireworks reflecting the Keys’ exuberant spirit, traditional picnic fare and mini-cupcakes, and family-fun activities and entertainment options. Plans also call for face-painting, bounce houses and more for kids. 

Bicentennial celebrations are to culminate July 3 — 200 years to the day after Monroe County’s 1823 establishment — with a 5-10 p.m. family-friendly gathering at Big Pine Community Park that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico at the end of Sands Road. Highlights are to include the creation and serving of the world’s largest Key lime pie — expected to measure 13.14 feet in diameter and be prepared with a traditional graham-cracker crust and whipped cream topping. Following its creation, the gargantuan version of the Florida Keys’ signature dessert will be certified in a resolution by Monroe County commissioners.


The high-energy evening is to feature live music by Brian Roberts and the Prime Movers, as well as former American Idol finalist and Keys resident Kristen McNamara. Also planned are a bounce house, slide and games for kids, food trucks, beverages for sale, and a glittering fireworks and laser light show from a barge on the Gulf. The once-in-a-lifetime community event is presented by the Lower Keys Rotary Club and Monroe County.


Even after the July 3 festivities, the Florida Keys’ bicentennial is to be prominently recognized. Throughout 2023, museum exhibits and festivals are being themed to commemorate the anniversary and the island chain’s vibrant two-century heritage.


Bicentennial celebration information: fla-keys.com/keys200

Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS

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