The 35th annual Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival takes place at Looe Key Reef, an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary south of Big Pine Key. The sanctuary protects the waters surrounding the entire Florida Keys island chain including the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef.
The concert draws several hundred divers and snorkelers each year to immerse themselves in the region’s colorful underwater panorama. Staged by the Keys’ US1 Radio 104.1 FM, the event provides a “submerged soundtrack” as participants explore a diverse realm of tropical fish, coral formations and other marine life.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to not only enjoy the reef, but appreciate it and protect it as well,” said festival co-founder Bill Becker. “We are committed to preserving the coral reef and keeping it safe, and this is the way to celebrate it.”
The fun begins at 6 p.m. Friday, July 12, with a welcome gathering with hors d’oeuvres and beverages at the Tiki Bar at Looe Key Reef Resort, 27340 Overseas Highway on Ramrod Key. For costs and reservations call 305-872-2411.
Saturday’s sub-sea songfest is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with music broadcast underwater via speakers suspended beneath boats positioned above the reef. The playlist typically features ocean-themed ditties such as the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” Donovan’s “Atlantis” and Jimmy Buffett’s “Fins.”
Divers and snorkelers might even catch “mermaids” and other costumed characters performing their own marine melodies — pretending to play underwater musical instruments such as a “fluke-a-lele” and a “baratuba” sculpted by Florida Keys artist August Powers.
While the festival offers participants a unique experience, its primary purpose is to inform them about eco-conscious diving practices and ways they can help protect the Keys’ marine ecosystem, which has been likened to an underwater rainforest.
“In addition to the music, we play public service announcements — diver awareness messages, coral reef etiquette,” said Becker. “We try to get divers to be aware of their impact on the coral reef so that they lessen that impact, and this reef can be here for generations to come.”
Divers and snorkelers interested in participating can reserve space on boats run by Lower Keys dive operators or launch their own boats from public ramps and marinas in the area.
Event information: lowerkeyschamber.com/festival.php
Lower Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com/lowerkeys or 1-800-872-3722
Florida Keys diving information: fla-keys.com/diving
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