newlogo     KeyWestWTcall2                                                                                     


KEY WEST, Florida Keys — If one man's junk is another man's treasure, then the late Key Largo folk artist Stanley Papio was a treasure hunter extraordinaire. Fans of "outsider art" can celebrate the renegade metal sculptor's legacy Saturday, May 14, with a people-powered parade of mobile sculptures crafted in the spirit of his extraordinary creations.

The Papio Kinetic Sculpture Parade is set to begin at noon at Key West's Custom House Museum, 281 Front St. Colorful sculptural floats, tricycles with exotically costumed riders, fantastically decorated bicycles and other moving works of art — all powered by human effort alone — are to follow a route along the length of Key West's Duval Street.

After the offbeat procession, floats and other parade creations are to be transported to Fort East Martello Museum, 3501 S. Roosevelt Blvd., where they will be on display until 7 p.m. Saturday and from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The display is to remain at the fort until mid-June.

On Saturday evening art lovers can attend the 5:30 to 7 p.m. grand opening of a permanent Papio exhibit at Fort East Martello. The exhibit is to feature more than 100 sculptures and three-dimensional constructions by the colorful Papio, ranging from the "Bowlegged Bride" to the "Two Faced Woman."

Stanley Papio settled in Key Largo in 1949 and opened a welding business, which evolved into the creation of welded "junkyard art" incorporating everything from recycled car parts to pipes and wire. Blending satirical social commentary and gritty whimsy, his constructions overran his property, incensed his neighbors and eventually morphed into a roadside exhibition of folk art that he dubbed Stanley's Art Museum. Before his death in 1982, Papio's visionary craftsmanship earned some recognition from critics, collectors and museums.

As well as the kinetic parade and exhibit opening, the Papio-themed weekend is to feature a May 13 kick-off party and parade registration from 5-8 p.m. at the Custom House and a post-parade awards party May 14 at the Southernmost Beach Café, 1405 Duval St. on the Atlantic Ocean.

Event information:

Key West visitor information:
or 1-800-LAST-KEY

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube

FLORIDA KEYS — Family vacations in the Florida Keys mean that moms, dads and especially teens, 'tweens and youngsters can embark on a variety of adventures along the 125-mile island chain that parallels the continental United States' only living coral reef. Try new immersive sports together such as scuba diving or introductory one-day underwater experiences in the ocean or an aquarium — each with personalized attention in a destination perfect for diving fun, adventure and memories.

Learning to scuba dive is increasingly popular among families. The Keys' year-round tropical weather and calm, clear waters provide a safe, easy learning environment for parents and children to practice skin diving and scuba skills virtually any day of the year. Training conditions are nice and easy, with light currents and great underwater visibility.
Dozens of dive charter operations are staffed with working professionals who actively teach and train every day.
Kids as young as age 10 can learn to be junior scuba divers. Options range from introductory one-day courses through open-water certification classes with three to five days of training that includes concepts such as basic physics and physiology, ocean waves, marine life and monitoring time and depth during a dive.
During pool and open-water dives at the reef, students learn further about underwater coral and natural formations during an ocean dive, surrounded by bright colors and a variety of reef fish and marine life.
Scuba divers also can go on to become underwater photographers, treasure hunters, marine biologists or even underwater archeologists. Certification lasts a lifetime. Visit

No prior diving or snorkeling experience is required for Snuba™, which blends the simplicity of snorkeling and the excitement and freedom of scuba diving to create a way for people of all ages to explore the Florida Keys' underwater world.
The sport is particularly suited for family adventurers — children age 8 or older, couples or seniors — as well as people interested in an underwater breathing experience who may go on to become certified in scuba diving.
Snuba "divers" breathe underwater by means of a 20-foot air line attached to an air supply that sits on a rubber pontoon raft at the water's surface.
After a 15- to 20-minute briefing during the trip to the reef, a professionally trained diving guide takes Snuba participants on an underwater tour of the marine environment. During the experience, participants are never more than 20 feet from the security of the floating raft while viewing undersea wonders that might include reefs, wrecks and diverse sea life such as rays, sharks, tropical fish, sponges, corals and much more. Watch a video to learn more at

Kids can enjoy an immersive experience with reef fish, invertebrates, stingrays and even sharks — without entering the ocean — at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. They also can feed reef fish, an experience not allowed when snorkeling or diving in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary because it disrupts their natural behavior.
The hands-on marine life attraction in Marathon spotlights the importance of marine conservation and the complex underwater habitats of the Florida Keys. A signature feature of the facility, located at the foot of the Vaca Cut Bridge at 11710 Overseas Highway, is a coral reef exhibit and shark habitat housed in a massive 200,000-gallon interconnected saltwater aquarium.
Coral Reef Encounter participants receive an instructional presentation and then immerse themselves in the tank to hover over an artificial coral reef structure using tethered diving technology. They can interact with tropical reef fish, rays and other reef-dwelling marine species that are part of the in-tank ecosystem.
The encounter enables individuals without any prior scuba experience to enjoy the in-water opportunity with supervision from trained professional dive instructors. Children age 5 and older can participate with a parent or guardian. A large fortified Plexiglas window divides the coral reef tank from a shark and predatory fish tank, and participants can hand-feed these creatures through underwater feeding ports in the wall.
Other interactive encounters include snorkeling in a shallow protected lagoon; exploring touch tanks with starfish, conchs and horseshoe crabs; and feeding debarbed stingrays and docile baby nurse sharks. At each encounter, a staff marine biologist provides educational introduction and guidance.

Florida Keys diving information:

Florida Keys visitor information: or 800-FLA-KEYS (352-5397)

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Audiences can rock, sway and sing along to some of America's hottest contemporary hits and classics Wednesday through Sunday, May 4-8, at the 21st annual Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Key West Songwriters Festival.

More than 200 songwriters are to showcase their chart-topping offerings during the five-day event, performing 50-plus shows in casual island settings.

Scheduled hitmakers include Jake Owen, who rocketed to stardom with the album "Barefoot Blue Jean Night"; Rhett Akins, who has penned 20 number-one singles; acclaimed Texas-based songwriter/entertainer Robert Earl Keen; Jack Ingram, whose notable offerings include the summertime anthem "Barefoot and Crazy"; Liz Rose, acclaimed for co-writing smashes with pop sensation Taylor Swift; and Natalie Hemby, who has collaborated on numerous cuts for Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town.

Most shows feature a rotating group of writer/performers and many have no admission charge. Headquartered at Key West's Smokin' Tuna Saloon, 4 Charles St., the festival presents shows at venues including island city bars, restaurants, resort beaches and poolsides and the Fury Catamaran during sunset cruises.

Events are to kick off at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening, May 4, with an outdoor concert starring Akins at the Ocean Key Resort's Sunset Pier overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at 0 Duval St. In high demand as a writer for other artists, Akins also is renowned for a performing career that spawned such tunes as "Don't Get Me Started."

Other anticipated festival highlights include group shows Thursday and Friday nights at the San Carlos Institute, a Cuban cultural center at 516 Duval St.; Tropic Cinema, a boutique cinema and theater at 416 Eaton St.; the Key West Theater at 512 Eaton St. and The Studios of Key West, an art enclave at 533 Eaton St.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, a free "main stage" concert headlined by Owen is scheduled in the 200 block of Key West's Duval Street. Hailed for exhilarating performances and easygoing country style, Owen is known for singles including "Beachin'," "Real Life" and the current "American Country Love Song."

Presented by international performing rights organization BMI, the Key West Songwriters Festival concludes with five afternoon and evening shows Sunday, May 8.

Festival information, schedule and ticketing:
Key West visitor information: or 1-800-LAST-KEY

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube

FLORIDA KEYS - The Florida Keys & Key West mark the spring season with a variety of enhanced accommodations, new adventures and culinary offerings to tempt visitors. Explore the highlights here.

Keys Accommodations

The Key West island resort formerly known as Sunset Key Guest Cottages, A Westin Resort, is now part of Starwood's Luxury Collection and has been renamed Sunset Key Cottages: A Luxury Collection Resort. Just a brief private launch ride across Key West Harbor from the Westin's 245 Front St. property, Sunset Key features new enhancements and luxury experiences that highlight the resort's exclusivity. Enhancements include newly renovated two-bedroom cottages and an upgraded arrival experience. Guests no longer check into Sunset Key via the Westin, but instead are escorted from the resort's porte-cochère to the island. New luxury experiences include the daily complimentary "rum ration." Every afternoon at 4:30 p.m. guests can gather at Sunset Key's Latitudes outdoor bar for their daily issue of the resort's new locally distilled and custom branded rum. Guests can choose from light or dark rum or the cocktail of the day. Additional guest services include complimentary ice cream delivery service from the Conch Cruiser "ice cream cycle." Free frozen treats are available to guests daily at 3 p.m. from a bicycle equipped with a custom icebox full of gourmet gelato and sorbet. Guests can simply flag down the bike, which is decorated with island scenes hand-painted by local artist Christie Fifer, and select a flavor to sample. For more information, call 305-292-5300.

Key Largo's private Ocean Reef Club, located at 35 Ocean Reef Drive, features 36 holes of golf, a salon and spa, more than a dozen restaurants, a 175-slip marina and a private airport. Usually reserved for members, the club allows select groups to experience its 30,000 square feet of indoor meeting and function space as well as outdoor venues including two oceanfront pools and Lagoon Beach that can accommodate up to 400 people. Groups can enjoy field trips and eco-kayak tours through the club's Nature Center and group activities at the property's all-new cooking school, which accommodates cooking demonstrations, private parties and tasting events for up to 150 people. Groups also can participate in team-building events such as bingo night, bungee run, cardboard boat regatta, sand castle competitions and more. In addition, the property opened a new meeting facility in March 2016. Carysfort Hall offers modern meeting and function space designed to accommodate groups of up to 300 guests. The newly designed space features a 5,688-square-foot ballroom, five additional meeting rooms and covered patios along the marina that allow for outside functions. For more information, call 305-367-2611.

Scheduled to open in summer 2016, Key Largo's Playa Largo Resort is to feature 167 luxury guest rooms, 10 private bungalows and a private beach house. Located at 97450 Overseas Highway, the luxurious beachfront resort will offer amenities such as a resort pool, private cabanas, spa and fitness facilities, and a variety of watersports options including paddleboards, kayaks, snorkeling, diving, boating and ocean excursions. Additionally, the 14.5-acre property is to incorporate over 39,000 square feet of meeting space with multiple inside and outside venues. For more information, call 305-853-1001.

Key West's historic La Concha Hotel & Spa is celebrating its 90th anniversary throughout 2016 with a variety of events and guest experiences to honor its historic significance as one of the island's most legendary hotels. Centrally located at 430 Duval St. in downtown Key West, the hotel has hosted some of the island's most famous visitors over the years including Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. The hotel is theming its anniversary celebrations around famous guests and the culture of 1930s Old Town Key West. Two of the property's suites have been renamed the Ernest Hemingway Suite and the Tennessee Williams Suite. The hotel also plans to host a series of culinary and cocktail celebrations at Wine-O, its casual wine bar and lounge, and 430 Duval, its signature restaurant. In addition, the cocktail menu is to be changed for 2016 to feature classic 1930s cocktails. For more information, call 305-296-2991.

Keys Attractions and Adventures

Mote Tropical Research Laboratory, operated by the Florida-based Mote Marine Laboratory and located at 24244 Overseas Highway on Summerland Key, is demolishing its current facility to make way for the construction of a new research and education center. The 19,000-square-foot facility, expected to open in early 2017, will more than double Mote's research and education space in the Lower Keys. Initiatives include expanding programs focused on studying and restoring damaged coral reefs and on finding new ways to address global threats to reefs such as climate change and ocean acidification. Mote's current plans call for expanding coral restoration efforts by bringing 5,500 nursery-raised corals to a proposed snorkel park encompassed within Key West's Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Mote intends to plant 5,000 boulder and brain corals and 500 staghorn corals to build interest in coral reefs and help people understand the important role that reefs play in the marine ecosystem. Preliminary underwater site work off Fort Zachary Taylor is slated to begin in April and restoration work is to continue through May and June.

Eat Drink Discover Key West recently launched a new adventure that blends food, libations, strolling and sailing. The "Tall & Crawl" is a pirate-themed land and sea tour that introduces visitors to the history of Key West as well as the present beauty and charm of the island. The tour features a variety of food and rum tastings on land as well as refreshments served on board an 80-foot pirate ship replica, the square-rigged Jolly II Rover. Passengers can help raise the vessel's red sails and participate in a "firing" of the cannons. They also can view Key West's Historic Seaport, Sunset Key, Christmas Tree Island and Fort Zachary Taylor all from the boat. The four-hour adventure costs $109 and begins at 11:30 a.m. daily, with the passenger check-in location at 600 Front St. The company also offers a sunset sail and an island city "bucket list tour" called Plunder Key West.

Keys Culture and Heritage

A permanent exhibit of 15 paintings by playwright Tennessee Williams debuted in March 2016 at Key West's Custom House Museum, 281 Front St. Famed for plays including "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "The Glass Menagerie," Williams lived in Key West for more than 30 years and helped shape the island's literary culture. He was known to relax by painting at his Duncan Street cottage and on Ballast Key, a private island owned by his longtime friend David Wolkowsky. The exhibit's paintings, which are displayed in a new second-floor gallery at the museum, depict subjects including Williams' close friends and personifications from his poetry. Originally home to Key West's customs office, postal service and district courts, the four-story Custom House currently serves as an award-winning museum and headquarters of the Key West Art & Historical Society. Its two floors of exhibitions spotlight two centuries of history, art, people and events. The museum also recently underwent more than $300,000 in roof repairs. They included fabrication and installation of two new copper "acorns," the replacement of deteriorated shingles, cleaning and painting of the dormers, installation of a new ridge cap and lashings, and repairing flashings around the chimneys and valleys of the roof. For more information, call 305-295-6616.

Key West, the southernmost city in the continental United States, was actually a Union outpost during America's Civil War — and a large-scale bronze sculpture remembering the island's African-American soldiers who served in a Union regiment recently was unveiled in the island's Bayview Park. Called "The Forgotten Soldier," the sculpture depicts a uniformed soldier holding a rifle, with one arm upraised. Its unveiling and dedication Feb. 16, 2016, marked the 153rd anniversary of the date in 1863 when more than 120 African-American soldiers from Key West were instructed to report for duty. Key West was the only southern city to remain loyal to the Union throughout the Civil War and was headquarters for the Navy Gulf Blockading Squadron against Confederate shipping. The sculpture, commissioned and donated by Key West businessman Ed Knight, stands among other veterans' memorials including one to Confederate soldiers and sailors.

Keys Food and Drink

Oltremare Restaurant, located at Islamorada's Amara Cay Resort, has launched several weekly culinary events to keep visitors and locals craving new innovative dishes and pairings. A "Sinful Sunday Brunch" includes a Bloody Mary cart and specialized menu available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant's "Martinis and Meatballs" night, where the chef pairs craft martinis with meatball inspired dishes, is scheduled Mondays from 5 to 10 p.m. "Wine Down Wednesdays," set for 5:30 to 10 p.m., give visitors a chance to enjoy a glass of new and unique wines that are normally sold only by the bottle. Led by Chef Dario Olivero, Oltremare is a 60-seat upscale Italian eatery located at 80001 Overseas Highway. For more information, call 305-664-0073.

Florida Keys visitor information: or 1-800-FLA-KEYS

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube

FLORIDA KEYS — Scores of visitors envy Florida Keys "locals" who create satisfying lives full of authentic pleasures and natural ingredients. But visitors too can enjoy the indigenous flavors of the Keys, and even take home tasty "souvenirs" to help sustain them until their next vacation escape.

Nearly everyone who journeys to the island chain samples locally caught seafood and locally made Key lime pie. Both are excellent starting points for an exploration into the region's unique edibles — but much more is available to savor as well. The Keys are home to artisan food crafters, a master chocolatier, beekeepers and even a saltmaker whose wares can be relished during visits and later as treats at home.

At the head of the Keys in Key Largo, for example, the Florida Keys' premier chocolatier can be found at mile marker (MM) 100.5 bayside. Key Largo Chocolates is the brainchild of Kristie Thomas, who infuses local flavors into handmade chocolate confections. Standouts include luscious truffles, fudge and specialty chocolate bark with Key lime and pistachios.

Perhaps the quirkiest creations are Thomas's chocodiles — whimsical 9-inch-long crocodiles made of white or dark chocolate. Those with a sweet tooth will delight in visiting the shop, and treats can be ordered for shipping at

Key lime pie, which originated in Key West in the late 1800s, was voted Florida's official pie in 2006 by the state legislature. But Bob's Bunz, a friendly Islamorada "comfort food" restaurant and bakery, features the tiny limes in other sweet temptations including Bundt cakes and yummy bite-size cookies.

No trip to the Upper Keys is complete without visiting the emporium, whose name comes from the legendary (and gigantic) cinnamon and sticky buns created by owner Robert "Bob" Spencer. While the "bunz" can be purchased only at the restaurant/bakery at MM 81.6, lime lovers can pick up Bundt cakes and cookies there or order them at

Head down the Florida Keys Overseas Highway through Marathon and, shortly before the Seven Mile Bridge begins, make a sharp right onto Gulfview Avenue. Perched on the waterfront at the end of the short street is one of the best casual seafood restaurants in the Keys: Keys Fisheries. Try the fresh stone crab claws, peel-and-eat Key West shrimp and savory conch chowder. And the eatery's famed Lobster Reuben makes even stubborn New Yorkers abandon traditional corned-beef Reubens for their seafood "cousin."

As well as being a favorite spot for locals and visitors, Keys Fisheries ships seafood (including the famed Lobster Reuben) to those craving a taste of the island chain. Orders can be placed at

Few things flavor a dish like artisanal salt, and Lower Keys residents Midge Jolly and Tom Weyant harvest 100 percent solar-evaporated sea salt on their Earth & Sea Farm. Their Florida Keys Sea Salt is described as an all-around cooking and finishing salt, and the natural rhythm of its hand-harvested production harks back to the Keys' saltmaking tradition of the 1800s.

Jolly and Weyant's sustainable farm and products, visit Their salt can be purchased at SALT Island Provisions, located at 830 Fleming St. in Key West.

SALT Island Provisions also is the place to discover other intriguing products from Florida Keys artisans, including raw and unprocessed small-batch honey whose distinct flavors can't be found anywhere else in the world. The delicacy is produced by independent beekeepers who have hives around the Lower Keys, and change seasonally with favorites including red mangrove honey.

"It's a beautiful, rich honey that grows at the edge of the ocean," said SALT owner Jeffrey Cardenas, who also sells the honey at "It comes straight out of the hives."

As enticing as these items are, they're only a sampling of the foodstuffs produced by creative spirits in the Florida Keys. Additional offerings include mango wasabi and rum mustards, rich and creamy smoked fish dip , Key Largo's renowned Bees N The Keys honey and even Key lime dog treats.

Florida Keys visitor information: or 1-800-FLA-KEYS

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube

FLORIDA KEYS — For nearly a century the Florida Keys have beckoned many with their natural beauty and vibrant yet laidback atmosphere. But it's not just travelers that gravitate to the intriguing destination. Quaint, quirky and filled with a free-spirited charm, the subtropical islands are a haven for the creative. Artists and artisans from across the globe flock to the Keys and stay, making the island chain their home while helping shape its reputation as a cultural mecca.

Travel U.S. Highway 1 from Key West through the Lower, Middle and Upper Keys to discover fine artisans offering a wide selection of gifts and treasures, many inspired by the sea and year-round tropical lifestyle. Whether textiles, jewelry, housewares, reclaimed wood furniture or other temptations, their quality handcrafted items are quintessentially "Keys."

Begin by exploring the artisans and artistry here.

Kino Sandals, Sandal Maker 305-294-5044

Ask many locals where they got their sandals and the answer is likely to be Kino's, a family-owned sandal factory in downtown Key West. For over 50 years, the Cuban-born Kino has employed traditional techniques to assemble the island's iconic handmade shoes. Using only natural leather uppers and rubber soles, he creates more than 20 different styles of sandals. These sandals are a Key West classic, and you'll want a pair in every style and color.

Judi Bradford, Milliner 305-304-4190

Put away your floppy sun hat and make way for Bradford, an award-winning milliner whose accolades include global recognition: the Niche Award and the Arts & Crafts Design Award. Bradford designs dramatic and sophisticated one-of-a-kind hats and Arashi Shibori silk scarves with a color palette inspired by the local landscape — turquoise and jewel tones that shimmer like the sea itself.

Many of her scarves and hats have made their way to "hat heaven" — the Kentucky Derby and the Ascot races in England. Capture a bit of Key West's theatrical flair with an original Judi Bradford "fascinator." You might even find one with an authentic rooster plume.

David Gard, Tropical Wood Artisan Ye Old Hippie Workshop; 305-747-0035

Bring home a vessel that doesn't need a motor and fill it with memories of your Key West vacation. Gard crafts vessels and furniture using indigenous tropical woods whenever possible and keeps a natural edge on his tabletops, trunks, and bowls "to keep it closer to the earth," he said.

The artisan "makes wood sing," said Jeffrey Cardenas, proprietor of SALT Island Provisions in Key West, where Gard's bowls and cutting boards are sold. Stop in to see if they're in tune with you.

Dorthe Thure, Fragrant Oils 305-587-8960

Want to take the magical fragrance of the islands home with you? Designer Dorthe Thure merges her passion for natural skin care with her Danish design aesthetic, creating luxurious oils for the body and hair. The Night Blooming Cactus, Heartwood, Mermaid, Key Lime and Sea Citrus blends are made from an alchemic combination of organic oils that include sunflower, almond and avocado along with a variety of pure essential oils. The products made by "TUA" (the pronunciation of her last name) can be found at Key West's SALT Island Provisions.

Karen Moore, Jeweler 716-308-7588

Designer Karen Moore quit her corporate job five years ago and has been creating her positive energy ZEN Jewelry line since. Her love for the Keys' native beauty is evident in her designs, which use only natural elements consisting mostly of semi-precious gemstones and shells — including her signature collection based on the conch shell.

"The inspirational energy of the conch is all about clarity and growth," said Moore, a Sugarloaf Key resident who is equally passionate about gemstones' beauty and their holistic elements. "It's also a reminder of the beautiful ocean here and the Conch Republic."

Kim Wallen, Textile Designer 305-394-4055

Textile artisan Kim Wallen takes fishing to an entirely new level, using her family's fresh catch to make what she calls "Fish Printz," otherwise known as Gyotaku, a Japanese art form of pressing fish onto rice paper using ink. Wallen merges her design background with the process, trading out the ink and rice paper for fabric paint. She presses the fish onto fabric that is sewn onto shirts, hats and tote bags, creating designs that are swimmingly fun and beautiful. The Summerland Key mother of three young sons keeps their fish tales alive with a "year-round trophy" and helps customers take home a little piece of paradise. Find her KDub Designz at Mellow Ventures in Key West and Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters in Marathon.

Cornelia Hoover, Sea Glass Crafter 305-731-9083

Cornelia Hoover captures the magic of island life through copper wire and glass, constructing everything from a sprawling three-foot octopus to glistening purses and jewelry to a mystical mermaid atop a scallop shell. She pieces together different gauges of wire, sea glass and tumbled recycled glass to craft creations that are both whimsical and elegant. Hoover's work can be found at DK's Beach Boutique in Marathon, the Hurricane Grille and Key West's Guild Hall Gallery.

Stephanie Martin, Fused Glass Artisan 727-776-3389

Fused glass artisan Stephanie Martin of Seaside Glassworks creates ocean-inspired glass, jewelry and art in her Islamorada working studio, which is open to visitors for tours. In her retail gallery you can browse her signature line of handcrafted fused glass pendants of scallop shells, turtles, dolphins and fish in a rainbow spectrum of colors, as well as lamps designed with Florida Keys colors in mind. If you happen to have a photo of Fido on hand, she can also make a custom glass pet portrait — a cheeky keepsake that's totally one of a kind.

Florida Keys visitor information: or 1-800-FLA-KEYS

Florida Keys cultural information:
Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube

FLORIDA KEYS — Fans of fine beers, ales, rums and more can enjoy libations created in the Florida Keys, many of them for the first time in modern years.

Islamorada is widely called the sport fishing capital of the world or jokingly described as "a drinking town with a fishing problem," but for local brewers at the Islamorada Beer Company, it's home. At 82229 Overseas Highway at mile marker (MM) 82.9 sits a brightly colored yellow-and-teal-colored tasting room that has served some of the top-selling craft brews in the islands since 2014.

The legendary Sandbar Sunday offering exudes the Keys' weekend lifestyle of wading in the water with a cold one. Others such as Islamorada Ale and Channel Marker IPA, are available Keyswide at grocery stores, bars and eateries.

IBC also offers some in-brewery-only beers such as the Key lime coconut-infused ale No Wake Zone, Old Road IPA with hints of roasted coffee and Sun Bum Honey IPA, a must-have for a day on the water. The tasting room is open noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Five more brews are on the way, including Tourist Season, Trust Me I'm A Local and Never Seen Snow, among other ales. Call 305-440-2162.

Locally owned and operated with brewing done on-site, Florida Keys Brewing Company is located at 200 Morada Way at MM 81.6 in the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District. The craft production outfit produces tasty seasonal and barrel-aged beers including light, reds, ambers and browns.

Owners Craig and Cheryl McBay, the latter born and raised in Islamorada, infuse local flavors such as Key lime, citrus and local honey into their brews. Visitors can sample and purchase beers at the brewery and taproom, which showcases the Florida Keys art scene with Islamorada artists' murals and taps featuring unique mermaid sculptures.

Some of the most popular brews include FlaKeys, a Belgian-style beer made with Key limes, and Hogfish beer with a note of local citrus flavors. The taproom is open 1-9 p.m. daily. For more information, call 305-916-5206.

Participants in an Upper Keys Happy Hour History Tour can actually end their stroll with a locally crafted beer at the Florida Keys Brewing Company. Brad Bertelli of Historic Upper Keys Walking Tours, a historian and curator at the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center, developed the 45-minute stroll that begins at the Florida Keys Hurricane Memorial and follows a route along a historic stretch of Upper Matecumbe Key. Any number of participants can join, and there are no firmly set times. "No tour is too small," said Bertelli.

The Waterfront Brewery, located at 201 William St. in Key West's Historic Seaport, offers American cuisine, homebrews — including the award-winning Key Lime Witness and Crazy Lady honey blonde ale — and a variety of other drafts from Florida breweries.

The highly recognizable nautical-inspired space features a main bar, restaurant, game room and bar in the brewery and tasting room, as well as an upstairs deck.

Open daily 11 a.m. to late night, with afternoon happy hours and sampler flights, the brewery also can host group events and private parties.

Bone Island Brewing, 1111 Eaton St., is the creation of brewmaster Jim Brady, a Cicerone-certified beer sommelier, and island city merchant Richard Tallmadge.

The nanobrewery serves different styles of craft beer, from pale ales to Irish stouts — sold only on-site. Visitors can enjoy tours of the operation and beer tastings, including flights of their own handcrafted smooth, drinkable and not "over the top" flavors such as the Calusa Pale Ale.

Bone Island Brewing is the craft beer depot located inside Tallmadge's Restaurant Store, a landmark Key West emporium that's also home to Cole's Peace Artisan Bakery.

Key West First Legal Rum Distillery opened in the island city at a former Coca-Cola bottling plant at 105 Simonton St. The site is historically significant as a pre-Prohibition-era bar named Jack's Saloon.

Guests are invited to tour the plant and enjoy free rum samplings during the distillery hours 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. While state law prohibits distillers from selling alcoholic beverages, visitors can enjoy complimentary rum and Coke drinks — the signature Legal Vanilla Rum & Coke is recommended — if they purchase one of the cola brand's classic glass bottles.

Private guided distillery tours and rum-tasting sessions feature quirky stories about Key West's rum-soaked past, often by distillery founder and local chef Paul Menta.

Currently there are at least a dozen different styles and flavors of the Legal Rum brand, including vanilla brûlée and other white rums flavored with coconut or Key lime. Flagship bottles bear mug shots of former local residents guilty of alcohol contraband to match the distillery's interior, which is covered in old newspapers and additional jail mug shots. Largely distributed in South Florida and Key West, restaurants can purchase Legal Rum in wooden barrels (each is cured in the seawater surrounding the island), and visitors to the distillery have the option to buy up to two 750-milliliter bottles at a time.

Among other distillery products, Menta purveys sealed jarred foods such as pickles and peppers, and even Key lime pie. The latter is still in its raw form when sold and becomes edible after a night in the fridge.

The products at Key West Distilling, located at 524 Southard St. in historic Old Town Key West, include the island's first distilled vodka and whiskey as well as a variety of rums, all produced entirely in-house.

Brainchild of New York native Jeff Louchhiem, who has dabbled in the process for 12 years, the distillery opened its doors in 2013, creating handmade sprits that showcase Key West's unique culture and offbeat personality.

Tours and tastings are available 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Flagship products include the Rumbunctious brand of Silver, Gold and Spiced rums; Spyglass Vodka; a newly released Horseradish Vodka; and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a whiskey aged for 11 months in old rum barrels.

Batches are small — typically five cases for each batch of rum, on average — yet the distillery produces every day. Louchhiem likes to "experiment" with several flavors of vodka and may soon produce a Key West gin. Call 305-295-3400.

Florida Keys visitor information: or 800-FLA-KEYS (352-5397)

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube

FLORIDA KEYS — Classical and jazz guitar concerts are to take center stage during the Florida Keys' summer season, providing music lovers a melodious contrast to the island chain's more typical trop-rock soundtrack. The Florida Keys Guitar Festival is to present six guitar virtuosos in seven concerts between June 4 and Aug. 7.

The festival is the creation of internationally acclaimed classical guitarist Mateo Jampol, a longtime Florida Keys resident who performs as Mateo. As well as his own artistry, the concert series features the talents of classical master Steve Ramos and jazz greats Bob Hanni, Larry Baeder, Michael Gillis and Mike Emerson.

Initial performances are scheduled in Marathon and Key Largo, leading up to a three-day Key West schedule highlighted by a Guitar Summit featuring all six musicians.

The festival is to begin Saturday, June 4, with Mateo's 8 p.m. concert of classical guitar highlights and original works at the Florida Keys Country Club, 4000 Sombrero Blvd. The following evening he plans to present a 6-9 p.m. show at the amphitheater at Marathon Community Park, mile marker (MM) 49.

A maestro of the Spanish guitar, Mateo next will perform for Key Largo audiences in an evening exploring the musical heritage of Spain. The concert is set for 8 p.m. Saturday, July 2, at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center, MM 102.

The festival's three-day Key West showcase begins with "Jazz Guitar Trio" celebrating the talents of Keys musical legends Baeder, Gillis and Emerson at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, at the Little Room Jazz Club, 821 Duval St.

Mateo is to present a 3 p.m. Saturday matinee at Key West's Old Stone Church, 600 Eaton St.; while Ramos and Hanni are scheduled at 10 p.m. for a classical and jazz guitar medley at the Little Room Jazz Club.

The festival's climax is Sunday's Guitar Summit, presenting all six performers in a richly nuanced evening that blends individual musical stylings with dynamic collective artistry. Titled "Cool Jazz & Hot Summer Night," the concert is set for 6:30 p.m. in the shaded grounds of The Gardens Hotel, 526 Angela St.

Tickets for most Florida Keys Guitar Festival performances are $25 per person and can be purchased at

Event information:

Florida Keys visitor information: or 1-800-FLA-KEYS

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Vacationers can relive the joys of summer camp in island style during Kamp Key West, scheduled Wednesday through Sunday, May 11-15. The LGBT event, held in the island city renowned as an international gay and lesbian getaway destination, showcases notable island attractions, exhilarating games and on-the-water excursions.

Attendees are to gather for an opening night "kampfire" May 11 at the Key West Community Sailing Center at 705 Palm Ave. Music, games and food are to combine with "kumbaya" spirit from 5:30-7:30 p.m. "Kampers" can book both land and sea adventures for the coming days.

Water enthusiasts can take advantage of full-day excursions scheduled May 12 and 13, offering the chance to ride the waves on a sailboat or personal watercraft, cast lines into the sea for an ultimate fishing experience, snorkel past beds of sea grass and schools of colorful fish, glide through quiet mangroves in a kayak or take a guided paddleboard eco-tour through Key West's most serene environment.

Land-based fun includes women's and girl's flag football at the Wicker Sports Complex on Kennedy Drive, where players and spectators are to enjoy sunshine, fresh air and the spirit of competition.

Saturday, May 14, "kampers" are likely to be amazed at the artistic and offbeat human-powered floats gliding down Duval Street during the Papio Kinetic Sculpture Parade. Also Saturday is the Gay Key West Trolley Tour, a fun-filled excursion that spotlights the LGBT community's role in the island's heritage.

Attendees who prefer to chart their own course through "kamp" will find a wide range of activities each day. They include everything from encounters with nature at the Key West Aquarium and the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory to walks through history at the Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit and Harry S. Truman Little White House.

Kamp Key West wraps up May 15 with the traditional Sunday Tea Dance at La Te Da, 1125 Duval St., and "kampy" Drag Bingo at the 801 Cabaret, 801 Duval St.

Event information:

Key West visitor information: or

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube

By Cricket Desmarais

Billy Kearins drapes the last of his newly silk-screened T-shirts out to dry along old sailing line hung from the beams of an aged tin shed. "COAST. Live by it," they read. Next he pulls the remnants of a weathered dock and a felled mango tree from the back of his '89 Ford, happy to be getting his hands dirty while he jams out to the Hackensaw Boys' latest release.

"We've become known as a place where old building materials find new life," said Kearins, remarking on two earlier phone calls that led him to the bounty.

Kearins is the founder of COAST — a rustic, funky space made up of a retail store showroom, studio workshops, an event venue and impetus for island-infused kids' camps — all located on Stock Island's Front Street where a hand-painted sign indicates "Mellow Folk Welcome."

Outside, a dusty lot is sectioned off with weathered sails, crab traps and reclaimed dock planks to create makeshift walkways that lead through a series of open-air workshops. The 1970s tin shed makes up the showroom where custom shirts, caps and bags are merchandised with the help of driftwood, dock line, planks, pallets and rusty pipes. It is at once soulful and salty, with nothing packaged or polished about it — exactly how Kearins prefers it.

"People's biggest question is always 'What is COAST?' and it's so hard to say because it's so many things," said the 30-something creative with a penchant for the sea and the business savvy it takes to make COAST float.

The innovative "craftsman by the sea" avoids being boxed into any one particular description, preferring a commitment to the creative process and the authentic unfolding that occurs as that happens. For him, COAST is a place that continues to incubate and evolve, "born from an idea for a space to create and experiment," he said. "Part of why we exist is to experiment with hobbies in hopes of making them something more."

In three short years so far, Kearins and the skilled hands of COAST have provided workshop space and studios for artists, presented a variety of creative workshops, offered services that range from sail repair to web design and hosted several community fundraisers. They also have welcomed many internationally known performers to their reclaimed wood stage including G Love and the Special Sauce, the Hackensaw Boys and Mason Jennings.

Like many of the island's residents, Kearins discovered Key West while on vacation and returned after college with the intention of staying just long enough to collect his thoughts and "figure out the long road ahead."

"But Key West got me good," he said. "I couldn't get enough of the water, found a solid crew of buddies, started driving boats and the rest is history."

Within a year he'd logged enough sea time to get his captain's license and was soon at the helm of several charter outfits, while also assisting in the boatyard building boats and attending to his own skate and surfboard building projects.

"At the time, it was about the best life in the world," Kearins explained. "I was outside, on the water, and making money sailing for a living."

But the long days of chartering trips back and forth to the reef led him deep into daydreams about what his future could be. After a brush with death from a bacterial infection in his heart that led to a medical evacuation flight to Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital for a double heart valve replacement, the then 27-year-old Kearins realized that "life is too short to live someone else's life and dreams."

"My days of driving and building someone else's boats were done," he said.

After Kearins recovered from his surgery, he met Danish designer Dorthe Thure. The two soon married and moved to Copenhagen where they had two children, Kristian and Naia. There Kearins did his graduate studies in entrepreneurship, got involved with a builder/creator collective and continued to make skateboards.

But he couldn't shake his need for the sun and the sea. Less than five years later, the island life lured the family back.

COAST was born almost as soon as they returned.

In addition to a handful of boats that have been built there since its beginnings, COAST now hosts a handful of artists and craftsmen and -women undertaking a range of projects. They include "tiny homes" by carpenter Mike Washek, fiber arts by Kelly Raspa, custom spear guns by Jason Tiller, paintings and photography by Sunflower Tedesco and a bona fide bonsai garden by Tedesco's husband John. Designer, web developer and videographer Chris Higgins keeps COAST's website fresh and assists with the expanding line of T-shirts, and a spectrum of other players layer in and out of the scene when special projects prevail.

"I've found a strange way to gather everything that is the most important to me — creativity, family, community betterment, the ocean, being active, music and classic design — and then wrap it into something that I can call my job, something that I immerse myself in every day that blurs the line between work, play and everyday life," Kearins said.

"Somehow all of the pieces of COAST just fit together and make sense, and I'm really thankful that it happened like that," he continued. "We are definitely promoting a way of life that takes into account the many meanings of the word. 'COAST' is something almost everyone can appreciate — no matter how it's translated."