Whether you’re looking for parades and picnics or pies and pageants, there is plenty to do in the Florida Keys this holiday weekend.
Billed as America’s favorite citrus celebration, the Key Lime Festival will be held Saturday through Monday, July 2-4, and features a variety of events celebrating the Keys’ famous fruit. The highlight of the festival is the Mile High Key Lime Pie Eatin’ Contest, held 11 a.m. Monday at Waterfront Brewery. Entries are $20 for contestants willing to dive face first into a nine-inch pie, topped with whipped cream.
Between the pie and picnic food, residents will have a chance to shed some calories during the Rotary Club Fourth of July 5K Run/Walk. The race begins and ends at Edward B. Knight Pier and will kick off at 7:30 a.m. Monday.
There are also more adult-oriented events in Key West over the weekend. Nineties rockers Gin Blossoms will play a double show Saturday, at 6 and 9 p.m., at The Key West Theater to kick off the venue’s Summer Concert Series. For a different kind of show, check out the 2016 Miss Firecracker Pageant, starting at 8 tonight at LaTeDa. The pageant will benefit the 2016 Southernmost HIV/AIDS ride.
In Marathon, the festivities begin at 10:30 a.m. Monday with a parade from Marathon High School to Sombrero Beach, where the city will host festivities all day, according to City Councilman John Bartus.
Events will include a volleyball tournament, watermelon-eating competition and several contests for kids. The event will feature live music all day, starting with a patriotic medley from Island Harmony during the opening ceremony, followed by performances by Marathon High graduates Abstract Radio and singer-songwriting group Jade Storm.
There will also be a food-and-drink fundraiser benefiting local scholarships, Bartus said.
“It’s the biggest fundraiser that the Marathon Rotary Club has every year,” Bartus said. “We really prefer people come hungry and thirsty.”
The event culminates with a fireworks display organized by former Marathon mayor and fire chief Randy Mearns.
“(Mearns) does a great job. He’s the guy who sort of designs the show,” Bartus said. “He’s been running and putting these fireworks together for years.”
The show will also feature musical accompaniment on radio station 97.7 The Wave.
The Spirit of Islamorada July 4 Celebration will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at Founders Park, with a fireworks display concluding the event.
The celebration will feature live entertainment, a hot dog-eating contest and awards for best apple pie and potato salad. The Upper Keys Rotary Club will be serving food and drinks, with proceeds benefiting local school athletic and scholarship funds.
The Key Largo Chamber of Commerce will co-sponsor a parade and picnic beginning at 10 a.m. on Monday. The parade will travel from Mile Marker 98 to 100 on U.S. Highway 1 and feature awards for participating floats and a variety of military vehicles sponsored by the Key Largo American Legion and VFW.
The parade will close the northbound lane starting at 9:45 a.m. All traffic will be diverted into southbound lanes between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. while the parade is taking place. The highway will return to normal traffic patterns by 11:15 a.m., officials said.
Following the parade, a picnic will take place at Key Largo Community Park, with free hot dogs and soda. At 10 p.m. there will be a fireworks display set off from a barge in Blackwater Sound. The display can be viewed from the park or surrounding venues including Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill, Sundowners, Senior Frijoles, the Caribbean Club and Marriott Key Largo Bay Resort.
In Key West, the 32nd annual Fourth of July Picnic will be held Monday at the Casa Marina. The event is sponsored by the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of the Florida Keys and will feature live music, a family fun zone and a silent auction. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. and general admission tickets are $10. Picnic buffet tickets will be $25 for adults and $10 for children. Fireworks enthusiasts can also reserve VIP seating on Higgs Beach for $150 per person, which includes the buffet and two drink tickets. The fireworks display is sponsored by the Key West Rotary Club and will be launched from the Edward B. Knight Pier beginning at 9 p.m.
Traffic is expected to be heavy all weekend, from Friday, July 1 through Tuesday, July 5, according to Monroe County Sheriff’s Spokesperson Becky Herrin. There will be extra patrols on the highway and the water, with officers on the lookout for unsafe and impaired drivers and boaters.
The department annually receives many fireworks complaints and will confiscate any found with illegal, exploding fireworks. Those using legal sparklers or fountains are encouraged to do so with adult supervision at a reasonable hour and clean up after the fun, Herrin said.
“With any kind of fireworks, you’re dealing with something that can be dangerous. Certainly that should be done by an adult, not by kids, for safety reasons,” Herrin said.