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.
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.
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.
If there is an iconic bird for the Florida Keys, the Key West quail-dove is it. The bird was named, and painted, by John James Audubon during his 1832 visit to the island chain.
"I have taken upon myself to name this species the Key West pigeon, and offer it as a tribute to the generous inhabitants of that island, who favoured me with their friendship," Audubon wrote in his journal.
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is already hugely popular with visitors -- but soon they'll be able to stroll through the writer's Key West home in more comfort, especially during the sweltering subtropical summer.
The house, built in 1851, is now set to have air conditioning installed for the first time. At the moment, stand-up fans offer the only relief.
In 1961, two New Yorkers who had worked in the theater moved to Key West and opened a screenprint fabric shop.
In short order they met two women who assured their success. One was Lilly Pulitzer, the Palm Beach socialite who had started selling brightly colored garments a few years before. The other was a Key West resident named Agnez Zuzek dePoo, better known as Suzie.
If they weren't such a pest you could almost pity the lionfish.
The creature, after all, is simply doing what it is biologically programmed to do: eat and reproduce. Unfortunately, it has made its way to the reefs off South Florida where it doesn't have natural predators.
So the lovely lionfish has become a menace.
They eat juvenile saltwater species that are commercially and biologically important, like lobster, crab, snapper and grouper. And they eat herbivores like wrasse that help limit algae growth on reefs.
Key West Mayor Craig Cates won a fourth and final term as mayor of the southernmost city Tuesday, defeating Margaret Romero for a third time and taking 53 percent of the votes in the three-person race. Romero won 44 percent while perennial candidate Sloan Bashinsky took just over 2 percent.
"I'm just a happy camper right now," Cates said. "Everybody that came out and supported me, four elections in a row -- it's an overwhelming feeling."
Marine biologists are diving deep for two weeks in August to examine the deepwater coral reefs of Pulley Ridge in the Gulf of Mexico. The aim is to determine how that area connects with the shallower reefs of the Dry Tortugas and Florida Keys.
The Custom House on Key West Harbor has been a landmark since it was built, as shown by this vintage postcard. Today the Custom House is an art and history museum, and site of an exhibit on the history of tourism.
Credit Monroe County Public Library/Scott DeWolfe collection
The two-day spiny lobster sport season -- known as the mini-season -- is intended to give recreational lobster hunters a chance to get their hands on the tasty crustaceans before commercial traps go in the water.
In practice it's become a hugely popular opening rush in the Florida Keys, where lobsters are usually plentiful.
05/30/14 - Friday on South Florida Arts Beat, Chef Allen Susser talks about Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation and their “No Kid Hungry” mission. Choreographer Rosie Herrera speaks with contributor, Judith Bishop, about Ballet Hispanico’s world premiere coming to the Arsht Center. Contributor, Chris DeAngelis, previews the 13th Annual Hukilau coming to Fort Lauderdale in mid-June. Chef Norman Van Aken stirs up A Word On Food and our Florida Keys calendar features Andy Newman.