Key West

Park fees
10:20 am
Tue January 20, 2015

Key West Aims to Make Commercial Users Pay for Parks

Many couples choose the scenic location of Key West's Smathers Beach for their weddings. The venue is free, but that may change soon.

For now, if you want to get married on Key West’s Smathers Beach - a two-mile stretch along the Atlantic - all you have to do is show up.

Soon that may change. The city government is working on new guidelines that will require a license and proof of insurance for those who conduct business on the city’s beaches and in its parks.

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Books
3:39 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Key West's Literary Community Mourns Robert Stone

Robert Stone
Credit Phyllis Rose

Key West’s literary community was already gathered over the weekend for the annual Literary Seminar when they learned they had lost one of their own. Novelist Robert Stone died Saturday in Key West. He was 77.

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History
7:09 am
Wed January 7, 2015

When Key West Was Cuban

Key West Cigars box label
DeWolfe and Wood Collection Monroe County Public Library

 In the '60s, '70s and '80s, waves of Cuban immigrants crossed the Florida Straits, seeking political freedom and economic opportunity. Soon they were starting their own businesses and winning political office, infusing Cuban culture into the DNA of a South Florida city.

The city was Key West. And this was the 1860s, '70s and '80s.

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News
8:36 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Florida Keys' First Gay Marriage Becomes Public Celebration

Aaron Hunstman and William Lee Jones were the first gay couple to receive a marriage license and wed in Key West.
Credit Carol Tedesco / Florida Keys News Service

At 12:18 a.m. Tuesday, the two men who won the first ruling overturning Florida's ban on gay marriage became the first gay couple to get married in Monroe County.

Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones exchanged vows in front of 500 people — including close friends, attorneys, total strangers, TV crews and a few tourists.

The Rev. Steve Torrance, a chaplain with the Key West Police Department and minister with the Metropolitan Community Church declared them legally married, and the couple was greeted with cheers, applause and the sound of a conch shell.

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Gay Marriage
10:29 pm
Thu January 1, 2015

Key Westers Celebrate Gay Marriage Clarification

Aaron Huntsman and William Jones, plaintiffs in a case challenging Florida's ban on gay marriage, rode a giant wedding cake down Duval Street as grand marshals of the 2014 Fantasy Fest parade. Next week, they plan to get married for real.
Credit Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Service

William Jones was about to head to work at the 801 Bourbon Bar on New Year's Day in Key West when he heard the news: A federal judge had clarified his order, clearing the way for Florida to start issuing marriage licenses to to gay couples.

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Uber
5:20 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

Key West Police: Don't Share This Ride

The ride-sharing service Uber has recently expanded into Florida. Key West police targeted Uber drivers in an undercover operation.
Credit Graphic by Uber. Color darkened by WLRN for clarity.

Key West police detectives recently conducted an undercover sting operation they called "Operation Safe Hire" targeting Uber drivers. Two drivers were cited with violating city ordinances that require drivers of vehicle for hire to have a permit from the city and for the vehicles themselves to have a special license.

The maximum penalty for each violation is a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.

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Dachshund Walk
4:57 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

Little Dogs Make Big Splash In Annual Key West New Year's Parade

Chip the chihuahua declares his right to be at the event.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Key Westers and their canine companions, more specifically ones of the short-legged variety, took to the streets Wednesday for the island's 10th annual Dachshund Walk. This year an estimated 175 dachshunds took part, along with 75 dogs of other breeds, including a chihuahua flash mob.

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Gay Marriage
1:58 pm
Mon December 22, 2014

Florida Gay Couples Hope To Wed Soon But Legal Picture Unclear

William Jones, left, and Aaron Huntsman hope they can marry on the courthouse steps in Key West at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 6.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Gay couples who want to marry in Florida were delighted with Friday's ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. The court left a federal judge's ruling in place, declaring the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional. While couples hope they can tie the knot early in the new year, the legal situation remains unclear.

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Books
7:54 am
Fri November 21, 2014

The Sally J. Freedman Reality Tour With Judy Blume

Judy in Miami Beach in the late 1940s
Copyright by Judy Blume and used only with her written permission. Not to be further reproduced or distributed except with her permission.

When I was in elementary school, I wrote an "autobiography" called "I Want to Be Like Judy." It had a pink construction paper cover and came in second in the school library contest. I never imagined that  30-something years later, Judy would say to me, "Let's take a selfie!" (See our virtual tour - link below.) I loved all her books, but "Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself" was one of my very favorites. I read it over and over. Ten times? Fifteen?  

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Key West
7:47 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Mallory Square Moves Its Act To Before Sunset

Performers like tightrope walker Will Soto have been drawing crowds for decades to Mallory Square for sunset. Now the performers and artists will be able to set up during the day when cruise ships call in Key West.
Credit Bob Krist / Florida Keys News Service

If Sunset Celebration takes place all day long, will anybody show up?

That's the question that a group of artists and performers will pose under a new five-year contract that allows them to set up an "artisan fair" at Mallory Square starting at 10 a.m. on days when cruise ships call on Key West.

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Environment
7:28 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

Miles Off Key West Roams The Loneliest American Crocodile

Cletus, the sole American Crocodile to live at Dry Tortugas National Park.
Credit Mark Hedden

You shouldn’t name a crocodile or ascribe it human emotions. It’s not a pet. It’s a wild and primitive creature with a lot of very sharp teeth and a crazy powerful jaw.

But that didn’t stop anyone from naming the sole crocodile living at Dry Tortugas National Park.

Cletus. That's what most people on the park staff call the croc. A few call him Carlos. No one remembers why.

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Key West
1:45 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

After The Party's Over, Fantasy Fest Concerns Continue

Many Key Westers are concerned that Fantasy Fest is becoming more of a gathering for exhibitionists and voyeurs, and less of a creative costume party.
Credit Mark Hedden

Weeks after the "Fat Lady Sings" tea dance that marks the official end of Fantasy Fest, Key Westers are meeting to talk about how to change the annual event to limit raunchy behavior and increase creative costuming.

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Election 2014
9:20 pm
Tue November 4, 2014

Winning In Keys: School Tax, Building Height Raise

Since the half-cent sales tax was first approved 20 years ago Monroe County has rebuilt most of its schools including Horace O'Bryant Middle School in Key West.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Voters in the Florida Keys Tuesday approved extending a half-cent sales tax for schools for another 10 years. The tax, expected to raise $157 million over the decade, will be used to build and refurbish schools and for technology upgrades.

Voter turnout was 56 percent, according to the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Office.

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Locals And Visitors
5:56 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

Is Key West's Fantasy Fest Too Raunchy?

Michael Blades and his wife Kathy Kilroy used to work on elaborate floats for Fantasy Fest's big parade. Now they're putting their efforts into newer events that are not part of the official festival roster, like the Zombie Bike Ride.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Fantasy Fest started 35 years ago as a way to bring visitors to Key West during what had been the slowest time of the year. But locals have always been a big part of it -- the 10 days of street fairs and costume parties, and the culminating parade, for which 60,000 crowd the island's downtown.

"I was on a float for, like, 19 straight years," says Key Wester Michael Blades. He and his friends built elaborate parade entries and won the grand prize three times. But they're not entering this year.

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Food
12:17 am
Thu October 16, 2014

Key West Food Trucks Get New Rules Proposal

When White Street Station opened for business the city's code enforcers cited the business -- but the case was dismissed because the city had no rules regulating food trucks.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

When two new eateries on wheels opened in Key West this year, the city's code enforcement officers cited them, saying they had not received approval to operate in the historic district known as Old Town.

But a magistrate dismissed those cases, because the city didn't have any rules that govern food trucks.

That could change soon, as a 16-page proposed ordinance gets its first airing this week in front of the city's Planning Commission. The commission will make a recommendation to the city commission, which must approve any new rules before they take effect.

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