FLORIDA KEYS — Florida Keys visitors and residents can celebrate the bicentennial of the subtropical island chain throughout 2023, starting with an official kick-off concert and drone show Saturday, March 25, in Key West.
The concert and other activities salute the 200th anniversary of the Florida legislature’s founding of Monroe County, which contains the entire Florida Keys, on July 3, 1823. From Key Largo to Key West, events in the coming months are to recognize the historic anniversary and recall the Keys’ two centuries of rich and vibrant history.
March 25 festivities are to begin at 6 p.m. at Key West’s Coffee Butler Amphitheater in Truman Waterfront Park with a program combining live music, Keys history presentations and drone “fireworks.” Gates open at 5 p.m. and admission is free.
Popular local musician Nick Norman is to open the celebration, followed by a welcome and commentary by local leaders. At 7:15 p.m., regional trop-rock all-star Howard Livingston is to take the stage to perform his signature Keys-inspired tunes. Livingston’s sets are to alternate with segments of South Florida PBS’ documentary, “The Florida Keys: 200 Years of Paradise,” that chronicles the dramatic history of the island chain.
A drone “fireworks” display is scheduled to cap the evening’s attractions. Plans call for 250 drones illuminating the sky over Truman Waterfront Park with imagery highlighting the Keys and their bicentennial.
“The Florida Keys that our visitors and residents experience today are built on our unique and intriguing history, and that’s what we’re celebrating with the kick-off event and throughout our bicentennial year,” said Craig Cates, mayor of Monroe County and a fifth-generation Keys resident. “We invite everyone who loves the Keys to join us in commemorating this milestone.”
Subsequent 200th anniversary events are to include Naval Air Station Key West’s Southernmost Air Spectacular, an April 15-16 weekend air show starring the famed Blue Angels and honoring two centuries of the U.S. Navy’s presence in Key West; a sea-to-table dinner set for Saturday, June 10, in Islamorada highlighting the island chain’s local chefs, fishing captains, artists and coral restoration initiatives; and Bicentennial Day festivities and fireworks Monday, July 3, in the Lower Keys, to feature the creation of the world’s largest Key lime pie.
In addition, museum exhibits around the Keys, annual festivals and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts’ 300-canvas “Connections Project” mosaic mural are themed to celebrate the historic bicentennial and the Keys’ multifaceted heritage.
Bicentennial celebration information: fla-keys.com/keys200
Regional trop-rock all-star Howard Livingston is to take the stage at 7:15 p.m. at the March 25 concert to perform his signature Keys-inspired tunes. Photo: Rob O'Neal
A full-frame fisheye lens helps to provide a unique view of the Florida Keys' Overseas Highway as it bisects the Atlantic Ocean, left, and the Gulf of Mexico, right, near Big Pine Key. Photo: Andy Newman