FLORIDA KEYS — Independence Day celebrations throughout the 125-mile-long Florida Keys island chain salute the nation's freedom — and the quirky independent spirit of the Keys — with local parades, picnics and parties topped off by fireworks displays.
Popular scheduled July 4 events include:
Key West In Key West, the Key Lime Festival, known for its Mile High Key Lime Pie Eatin' Contest, features four days of Key lime culinary and libation adventures Saturday through Tuesday, July 1-4. Highlights including sampling strolls to discover the best Key lime cocktails and pie, a distillery tour featuring Key lime rum and a class unveiling the secrets of Key lime cooking.
The mouthwatering Mile High Key Lime Pie Eatin' Contest kicks off at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 4. Participants with their hands behind their backs must dive in face-first to devour a 9-inch Key lime pie faster than their rivals.
Also in Key West, the 33rd annual July 4 beachfront picnic and fireworks celebration is to benefit the Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice of the Florida Keys Inc. Doors open at 5 p.m. at the Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, for food, live music and beach dancing, family games, a silent auction and more. Fireworks are to begin at 9 p.m.
A traditional All-American picnic buffet offers hamburgers, hot dogs, popcorn, watermelon and drink for $25 per adult, $15 per child ages 4-12 and free for children 3 and younger, admission included. General admission tickets, excluding food and beverage, are $10 per person.
Also available are deluxe VIP beachfront seats priced at $150 per person with first-class service and a lavish buffet. The Casa Marina Resort is located at 1500 Reynolds St. on the Atlantic Ocean. Call 305-320-0676.
Since 1976, the Rotary Club of Key West has presented the island's annual fireworks show. Staged from the Edward B. Knight Pier (formerly called White Street Pier) overlooking the Atlantic Ocean where White Street meets Atlantic Avenue, fireworks are to begin at 9 p.m. Attendees can purchase food, drinks, burgers and hot dogs to benefit the Rotary Club's scholarship funds at a booth across from the pier on Atlantic Avenue. Visit keywestrotary.com or call 305-304-6963.
Big Pine & the Lower Keys On Big Pine Key, the Big Pine & Lower Keys Rotary Club is to host pre-Independence Day activities beginning at 5 p.m. Monday, July 3, at Big Pine Community Park, mile marker 30. Attractions include vendors, food, beverages, games, family activities and entertainment by the Prime Movers and Island Harmony Singers. Fireworks are scheduled at 9 p.m. Admission is free, but no coolers, pets or personal fireworks are allowed. Call 305-923-5370.
Marathon In family-oriented Marathon, the free-admission Sombrero Beach is the site of one of the Keys' largest and longest fireworks displays Tuesday, July 4, produced by the Rotary Club of Marathon. As well as spectators on land, hundreds of boaters traditionally line up for colorful on-the-water views of the fiery dazzlers. Families can gather for a full day of beachside activities beginning with a patriotic parade at 10:30 a.m., following a route from Marathon High School on Sombrero Beach Road to the beachfront. The daylong celebration includes hamburgers and hotdogs, cold drinks, kids' crafts and live music. Call 305-743-5417.
Islamorada In Islamorada, the village's Independence Day Celebration is to be held from 6 to 10 p.m. July 4 at Founders Park at mile market 87 with family fun, food and fireworks. Food and drinks are to be available for purchase. Vendors are to include Chef Drew's Island Catering, Craig's Restaurant, M.E.A.T. Eatery & Taproom, IL Pizzarello and Polar Ice. Beer, rum punch, soda and water can be purchased, with all proceeds to benefit the Upper Keys Rotary Foundation. A baked apple pie contest is set for 6 p.m. Live entertainment is to be provided by The Carousers and Leah Sutter. On-site parking is $5 per vehicle. Call 305-664-4503.
Key Largo In Key Largo, the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce and the Upper Keys Reporter are to host an annual July 4 parade and picnic from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The old-fashioned community event is to be held at Key Largo Community Park and includes vendors, hotdogs and beverages. Call 305-451-1414.
At approximately 10 p.m. in Key Largo the annual bayfront Blackwater Sound fireworks celebration at mile marker 104 is to provide a dazzling display of shimmering lights. Best seating can be found at Sundowners, Señor Frijoles, Cactus Jack's, the Marriott Key Largo Bay Resort and the Caribbean Club. Call 305-451-4502.
Florida Keys & Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
The Key Lime Festival is known for its Mile High Key Lime Pie Eatin' Contest.
Fireworks displays from Key Largo to Key West are planned.
Independence Day revelers can enjoy local parades, picnics and parties.
Families can gather for a full day of beachside activities at Sombrero Beach in Marathon.
A float entry in the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce annual parade.