LOOE KEY REEF, Florida Keys - Organizers of the Lower Keys annual Underwater Music Festival postponed the subsea concert one week, because of threat to the Lower Keys from Hurrricane Dennis Saturday, July 9, the original scheduled date.
The storm skirted the Florida Keys leaving minimal damage. On Sunday, visitors began returning to the Upper and Middle Keys. Visitors can begin traveling to the Lower Keys and Key West Monday.
The 21st edition of the event is to feature the concept of "aquaculture" when divers and snorkelers listen to music as they explore an undersea art gallery.
The unique festival showcases the colorful diversity of marine life that characterizes North America's only living coral barrier reef. As many as 600 divers and snorkelers typically gather each year for the sub-sea songfest at Looe Key Reef, an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary located approximately six miles south of Big Pine Key.
Staged by Keys radio station WCNK 98.7 Conch FM, the quirky concert is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Marine melodies are to range from the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" and Jimmy Buffett's "Fins" to humpback whale songs and other water-themed selections, with the music broadcast underwater via Lubell Laboratory speakers suspended beneath boats positioned at the reef.
While aquaculture typically means fish farming, festival organizers have themed the 2005 festival "AquaCulture: Music and Art in the Key of Sea," to celebrate the vibrant cultural community in the Florida Keys.
A group of culture "afishionados" is to spotlight both music and art by "playing" aquatic anthems on a collection of musical instruments created by Florida Keys artist August Powers. There's something undeniably fishy about these instruments, however - they include a trombonefish, a staghorn, a manta-lin, a fiddle crab and a drumfish.
In addition, an underwater exhibition is to showcase approximately 20 pieces of "new wave" art created by Lower Keys artist Barbara Hettinger and her cohorts at Artists in Paradise Gallery on Big Pine Key.
"Watercolor" artists aren't the only unusual reef denizens that participants might spot during the Underwater Music Festival. Past events have included appearances by a troupe of snorkeling Elvis look-alikes playing underwater guitar, a long-haired mermaid with a harp, a submerged symphony and a trio of divas of the deep.
As well as being a one-of-a-kind event for divers and snorkelers, the annual Underwater Music Festival carries a serious message of coral reef preservation. The musical broadcast incorporates diver awareness announcements, written and recorded by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary officials, offering tips on how people can enjoy the ocean while minimizing the impact on the coral reef ecosystem and overall marine environment.
Following the Underwater Music Festival, sea fans are to gather at Parrotdise Bar & Grille, off U.S. Highway 1 at Mile Marker 28.5 on Little Torch Key, to celebrate aquaculture with cocktails and camaraderie. Because Parrotdise is located on the water, revelers can arrive either by boat or car.
The undersea art is to be available at Parrotdise for above-water viewing and purchase, with a portion of the proceeds slated to benefit the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce.
People interested in diving into culture at the 2005 Underwater Music Festival can charter space aboard boats run by Lower Keys dive operators. Visitors and residents with their own boats can launch from public ramps throughout the area.
For information about dive charters and accommodations in the Lower Florida Keys, contact the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-872-3722 or 305-872-2411, or visit the chamber's Web site at www.lowerkeyschamber.com or explore this Web site.
Sebrina Maria Alfonso, right, conductor of the Key West Symphony, uses a snorkel to lead a troupe of divers pretending to play replicas of musical instruments at last year's Festival. (Photos by Bill Keogh/Florida Keys News Bureau)
Divers pretend to play replicas of musical instruments including a French angelfish horn, Sa manta-lin, a harmoni-crab and a trombonefish.