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Keys Voices Main Archive

Savoring the Southernmost Spas

Carol Shaughnessy | August 2014

Chances are, you need a break. You might be winding up a summer full of too many houseguests and outdoor activities, feeling drained by personal or professional challenges, or simply seeking a rejuvenating breather from real life in the “real world.” But no matter what you need to escape FROM, it makes sense to escape TO the Florida Keys.

Luxury and easygoing informality blend at Sunset Key Guest Cottages, located on a private island just off Key West. (Photo courtesy of Sunset Key Guest Cottages)

Luxury and easygoing informality blend at Sunset Key Guest Cottages, located on a private island just off Key West. (Photo courtesy of Sunset Key Guest Cottages)

That’s because the 125-mile island chain offers a rare blend of luxury and easygoing informality, inducing an air of tranquility and relaxation that’s one of the greatest luxuries of all.

On your Keys escape, you might choose to stay in a restored Victorian inn behind a white picket fence, or a rustically elegant bed-and-breakfast surrounded by a nature sanctuary.

But for the ultimate getaway, there’s nothing like a waterfront spa resort.

Let’s face it: a truly relaxing vacation just doesn’t seem complete without a soothing, sinfully sybaritic spa treatment or two. Luckily, you’ll find spa facilities from Key Largo to Key West — many of them housed in tropically elegant full-service resorts with top-level restaurants and beaches lapped by blue water.

Craving the ultimate luxury escape? Indulge yourself at a full-service spa resort like Cheeca Lodge, shown here. (Photo courtesy of Cheeca Lodge & Spa)

Craving the ultimate luxury escape? Indulge yourself at a full-service spa resort like Cheeca Lodge, shown here. (Photo courtesy of Cheeca Lodge & Spa)

Among them is the Spa at Cheeca Lodge, located at the historic luxury property in Islamorada. Cheeca’s truly amazing spa features a variety of skin care treatments like the luscious Golden Veil facial incorporating passion flower oil (yummy!), massage therapies including the signature Hot Lava Shell offering, a heated lap pool with butler service and private personal fitness sessions.

At Hawks Cay Resort, located on a lush 60-acre island just outside Marathon, the pampering possibilities at the 7,000-square-foot Calm Waters Spa include body treatments such as the signature Key Lime Mojito scrub and warm sea stone massage (trust me — it’s guaranteed to make you relax). You’ll also find hydrating facials and salon services, and even a menu of teen services featuring massage, facial and salon treatments.

Elegant pedicures are among the services at Hawks Cay's Calm Waters Spa. (Photo courtesy of Hawks Cay)

Elegant pedicures are among the services at Hawks Cay’s Calm Waters Spa. (Photo courtesy of Hawks Cay)

Off the Lower Keys, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, a private island offering tropically elegant suites in thatched-roof villas, features the SpaTerre experience. Among the health and beauty treatments are ancient Javanese and Thai rituals, flower-petal bath experiences in a traditional Japanese soaking tub (how could you NOT love that?), facial indulgences and massages including one surrounded by the ocean.

(FYI, Little Palm Island is so exotic that movie producers used it as a set for the filming of “PT-109,” portraying Lt. John F. Kennedy’s naval heroics in the South Pacific.)

Key West offers a number of spas, both in resorts and independent facilities. Among the absolute standouts is the boutique spa at Sunset Key Guest Cottages, A Westin Resort, located on the 27-acre island of Sunset Key — just across the harbor from Key West’s historic downtown.

At Little Palm Island Resort, guests are pampered in a paradise-like setting. (Photo courtesy of Little Palm Island)

At Little Palm Island Resort, guests are pampered in a paradise-like setting. (Photo courtesy of Little Palm Island)

The spa menu includes traditional and tropical body treatments, facials with hydrating rose products and plant extracts, scrubs and wraps, touch therapy and a blending station where you can create a custom scent for your treatment. And if you’re visiting with that special someone, consider the Sunset Romance package for couples, featuring massages and a champagne dinner in a private beachside cabana.

Ready to plan the ultimate indulgent getaway? Then click here for more information on Florida Keys spa and wellness offerings, and prepare to be pampered.

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Rick Worth: Painting the Town

Briana Ciraulo | August 2014

It’s hard to imagine Key West without its colorful art scene — without its larger-than-life outdoor murals, charming local galleries and, most important, quirky artists whose creativity enhances the island every day.

Beloved Key West artist Rick Worth paints everything from outdoor murals to fine-art pieces and "art-o-mobiles."  (Photo by Bryan Buckley, courtesy of Lucky Street Gallery)

Beloved Key West artist Rick Worth paints everything from outdoor murals to fine-art pieces and “art-o-mobiles.” (Photo by Bryan Buckley, courtesy of Lucky Street Gallery)

Rick Worth is one of those artists, enthusiastically sharing his love of art with everyone who crosses his path.

Rick moved to America’s southernmost island in the mid 1980s to fulfill his dream of becoming an artist, but it didn’t happen right away. An incredibly handy man, he took a multitude of “odd jobs” — doing maintenance and landscaping for resorts, working at museums and eventually becoming a vocational trainer with the Monroe Association for ReMARCable Citizens.

Eventually, the Key West Art & Historical Society gave him his first studio and the chance to put his artistic skills to use. And those skills produced some of the most enticing, unique art Key West has ever seen.

It all started with his “art-o-mobiles,” imaginatively painted cars whose designs displayed aspects of their owners’ personalities. Rick has adorned cars with depictions of everything from sharks and toucans to lifelike reefs and elaborate nature scenes.

“Before I knew it I had painted over 100 cars in a few years,” he said. “The cars really helped to change the personality of the town.”

What's Rick Worth's advice for his art students? "Just shut up and paint!" (Photo by Rob O'Neal)

What’s Rick’s advice for his art students? “Just shut up and paint!” (Photo by Rob O’Neal)

In addition to attention-grabbing cars, Rick has made his fair share of floats for Fantasy Fest, Key West’s wildly popular October costuming and masking festival. Today he paints from home and shows his work at the island’s Lucky Street Gallery.

About 15 years ago, he started what he calls his most rewarding experience yet: teaching. Over the years, Rick taught art classes in many churches and galleries all over town. Most recently, he’s been teaching “Painting Boot Camp” at The Studios of Key West, a class open to creative spirits of all ages and all experience levels.

“People always think they can’t do this or that, and you know what I say? Shut up and paint!” he advised with a grin.

As well as teaching, Rick is widely credited with helping expand the Key West art scene. Visitors can see many of his large-scale murals on the exteriors of buildings throughout town.

“I did my best to open up the walls in this town to public art,” he said. “I really try to get businesses to donate their walls, spaces — anything.”

His works include a fascinating rooftop vista outside Key West International Airport and a takeoff on a famous portrait of Washington crossing the Delaware on a building at the corner of Olivia and Simonton streets.

Rick's paintings are upbeat, whimsical representations of Key West's culture, diversity, and even canine companions. (Photo courtesy of Lucky Street Gallery)

Rick’s paintings are upbeat, whimsical representations of Key West’s culture, diversity, and even canine companions. (Photo courtesy of Lucky Street Gallery)

Characteristically, Rick put a “Keys twist” on the classic 1851 painting. Titled “Wilhelmina Crossing the Seven Mile Bridge,” it depicts a “Washington” who looks much like the late Florida Keys Mayor Wilhelmina Harvey navigating past the Middle Keys’ landmark bridge.

Iconic Keys elements in the mural include a rainbow United States flag, a boat featuring a multicultural and multiethnic crew, and even a small white dog that resembles Rick’s late canine companion Kido. Overall, the piece is an upbeat, whimsical representation of the island chain’s culture and diversity.

Rick’s sincere personality and care for Key West’s arts community set him apart from many of his creative contemporaries. Passionate about his work and about sharing his knowledge, he would rather provide the town with art than charge high prices for it — and he’s extremely happy with his location and his life at this point.

“I’m just thankful to still be here and alive,” he said simply. “I don’t want to go anywhere; I’m in helpful and loving hands here. My friends have become my family and with them, you can weather just about anything that comes down the road.”

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Who Needs Mutant Ninjas? Keys ‘Hatch’ Turtle Stars

Carol Shaughnessy | August 2014

Cyberspace may be buzzing over the release of the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, but turtles far younger recently made news in the Florida Keys — and they weren’t mutants OR ninjas.

Baby loggerhead sea turtles emerge from a nest on the Florida Keys beach and are captured by an live streaming webcam, illuminated by infrared lighting. (Photo courtesy of the Florida Keys News Bureau)

Baby loggerhead sea turtles emerge from a nest on a Florida Keys beach and are captured by a live streaming webcam, illuminated by infrared lighting. (Photo courtesy of the Florida Keys News Bureau)

In fact, they were newly-hatched baby loggerhead sea turtles just moments old, and their instinctive rush to the Atlantic Ocean was captured by a live-streaming, high-definition “turtle webcam” set up on an unnamed Keys beach.

The webcam was focused on the nest in the Lower Keys for almost two weeks before about 100 of the 3-inch-long babies erupted from a hole, becoming instant “film stars” like Donatello and his cohorts.

Emerging en masse under dim moonlight, they immediately headed for the Atlantic — scrambling on top of each other, tumbling over and righting themselves, but never losing sight of their objective — in a display of inborn programming that was truly breathtaking.

The camera used infrared lighting so the hatchlings wouldn’t be confused by artificial light and move landward, but instead would be guided by the moonlight reflecting on the water and make a beeline for the ocean.

According to Harry Appel, the president of the Keys-based Save-A-Turtle organization, this was the first time such a webcam was ever used to record a sea turtle hatch.

“This webcam is high-definition, and also an infrared IR-emitting light that is so important because it does not disturb any of the activities of the turtle trying to find the ambient light of the moon,” Harry explained.

Save-A-Turtle helped coordinate the webcam project in partnership with the Florida Keys tourism council, which funded the camera. Naturally, it was approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The location of the camera and the nest were kept secret so curious humans couldn’t interfere with the turtles’ safe hatching and migration to the ocean. The project is part of ongoing efforts in the Keys to raise awareness of sea turtles and the need to protect them.

Marine life artist Wyland (left) and Save-A-Turtle's Harry Appel show off the artwork Wyland created for Save-A-Turtle.

Marine life artist Wyland (left) and Save-A-Turtle’s Harry Appel show off the artwork Wyland created for the Keys’ Save-A-Turtle.

“It’s so important here in the Keys to protect these nests and these turtles,” Harry stressed. “They’ve been around for millions, maybe hundreds of millions, of years.”

Loggerhead, green, leatherback, hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles nest on beaches in the Keys and other parts of Florida, and inhabit Florida and Keys waters. All five species are considered either threatened or endangered — and can benefit from the ongoing protection of Save-A-Turtle.

Founded in 1985, the all-volunteer Save-A-Turtle is dedicated to the preservation and protection of rare and endangered marine turtles, and to the enhancement of their habitats in the Keys. Its volunteers patrol turtle nesting habitats, protect nests when needed, and provide guidance on issues that affect the turtles and their territory.

In fact, Save-A-Turtle volunteers just might be considered “ninjas” who use their powers to ensure that sea turtles (whether hatchlings, teenage or grown-up) can live their lives in peace and safety.

If you’re interested in supporting their efforts and becoming a warrior for sea turtle protection, click here.

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New ‘Papa’ Lives by Pizza Philosophy

Carol Shaughnessy | July 2014

There’s a new “Papa” on the scene — and it’s no surprise that he looks a whole lot like Ernest Hemingway.

Wally Collins (front) celebrates after being named the winner of the 2014 "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest. (Photos by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Wally Collins (front) celebrates after being named the winner of the 2014 “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest. (Photos by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Wally Collins, a 68-year-old white-bearded restaurateur from Phoenix, won the 2014 “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest on his sixth try — beating even his son Matt Collins, who competed as the young Hemingway.

The contest is a highlight of Key West’s Hemingway Days, which takes place in July each year and celebrates the work and exuberant lifestyle of the legendary writer who spent the 1930s on the island. Each year, it draws about 125 stocky, bearded middle-aged men vying for the title of “Papa.”

They parade across the stage at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, where Ernest enjoyed cocktails with local and literary cohorts, during two preliminary rounds and a hard-fought final battle. They dress in khaki safari garb or wool fishermen’s sweaters, copying the author’s signature look in his later years. Many, like Wally Collins, come back year after year to compete.

“I never imagined that this event would mean this much to me when I first started,” Wally admitted after his victory.

Wally Collins is congratulated just after his victory by past contest winners (from left) Stephen Terry, Greg Fawcett and Charlie Bicht.

Wally Collins is congratulated just after his victory by past contest winners (from left) Stephen Terry and Greg Fawcett.

The 2014 competition was tough, however — especially in the final round. Finalists marched onstage and took turns pleading their case, while crowds of spectators roared applause for their favorites.

One competitor even performed a song parody trying to convince the judges (all of them past contest winners) that he was the best possible choice for “Papa.” Semi-finalists, by the way, included four-time entrant Michael Groover — the husband of celebrity chef Paula Deen.

But when the voting was over, Wally was the clear winner. Afterwards, standing outside Sloppy Joe’s as scores of strangers rushed up to shake his hand, Wally appeared slightly dazed but clearly triumphant. And as it turned out, his resemblance to Hemingway goes far deeper than simple appearance.

He’s tried writing short stories — and twice entered the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition directed by Ernest’s author granddaughter. He once delivered a research paper on the man himself at a Hemingway conference.

“I didn’t have as many wives as he had, and I have a lot more children and grandchildren, but there are a lot of things that he stood for that I really like,” said the new “Papa.”

Wally poses with "Hemingway cats" at the Key West home of the author he resembles.

Wally poses with “Hemingway cats” at the Key West home of the author he resembles.

Wally particularly admires Hemingway’s ideals and spirit.

“Ernest Hemingway was adventurous,” he stated. “And in our family, we have a family motto: Life is a pizza. Order the one with everything on it.”

During his Key West years, Ernest Hemingway wrote classics including “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Death in the Afternoon” and the Key West-based “To Have and Have Not” — his only novel set in the United States. Many experts say his writing style changed the face of American literature.

While doing so, he embraced Key West’s renegade lifestyle. He fished for marlin and other “big game” in the waters surrounding the island, occasionally refereed local boxing matches in the Bahama Village neighborhood, and drew inspiration for his work from the tough Depression-era residents that were his friends.

Hemingway’s legacy of “living large” helped shape the adventurous, offbeat atmosphere that draws visitors — like those who filled Sloppy Joe’s for the 2014 look-alike contest — to Key West today.

In fact, if new “Papa” Wally Collins and the author he resembles could ever sit down to share a pizza, it’s virtually certain that they’d order the one with everything on it.

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Peter Anderson: Driving Force Behind the Conch Republic

Briana Ciraulo | July 2014

(Editor’s Note: The Florida Keys & Key West lost a very good friend in July 2014 with the passing of Peter Anderson after a courageous battle with cancer. In recognition of his dedicated efforts to make the Keys and the Conch Republic a better place, and promote their offbeat spirit and character, we share this profile written four months before his death.) 

Peter Anderson helped keep the spirit of the Florida Keys' Conch Republic alive and thriving.

Peter Anderson played a pivotal role in keeping the spirit of the Florida Keys’ Conch Republic alive and thriving.

“I came down to Key West on a Tuesday night in early April 1984 in my old Cadillac El Dorado with red leather seats, my clothes packed away and a couple grand in my pocket,” said Peter Anderson.

While this may sound like a relatively ordinary “moving to the Florida Keys” story, in reality there’s nothing ordinary about Peter OR his story.

Secretary General of the Keys’ Conch Republic, Peter has worked tirelessly over the past 25 years to spread the republic’s unique and heartwarming philosophy.

“As the world’s first ‘fifth world’ country, we exist as a ‘state of mind’ and aspire only to bring more warmth, humor and respect to a planet we find in sore need of all three,” he explained.

The Conch Republic, the Keys’ quirky alter ego, was established in 1982 to protest the installation of a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint that stopped traffic at the top of the Overseas Highway — the only road in and out of the Keys.

Peter and Keys musician Howard Livingston (right) share an on-camera moment and a smile.

Peter and Keys musician Howard Livingston (right) share an on-camera moment and a smile.

Because the federal government was treating the island chain like a foreign country, local leaders decided it would become one.

They staged a ceremony seceding from the United States, raised a quickly-constructed Conch Republic flag, declared “war” on the mother country, carried it out by pelting federal agents with stale Cuban bread, and surrendered after 60 seconds.

Not surprisingly, the action attracted international attention. The first Conch Republic Independence Celebration, commemorating the gutsy secession, was organized in 1983.

“We celebrate our independence annually in a public and notorious manner,” said Peter.

The 10-day festival is held in April every year and consists of events including a “drag race” for drag queens, a naval parade and battle, and a bed race (yes, really!) along Key West’s Duval Street.

Peter, shown here in his "conchsulate" office in 2003, was an untiring Keys ambassador. (Photo by Rob O'Neal)

Peter, shown here in his “conchsulate” office in 2003, was an untiring Keys ambassador. (Photo by Rob O’Neal)

Peter himself was the driving force that ensured the Keys would continue to hold the fun-filled independence celebration.

In 1990, there was talk of the event’s eighth year being the last. Peter believed the Keys’ independence deserved annual commemoration, and came together with Key West movers and shakers to continue the wacky festival.

After the success of the 1990 celebration, Captain Tony Tarracino, then the prime minister of the Conch Republic and mayor of Key West, appointed Peter the republic’s first secretary general.

“I actually decided to take the job seriously, and now we’re here 25 years later,” Peter stated.

It’s safe to say that being secretary general of the Conch Republic is a one-of-a-kind job. Peter has far exceeded people’s expectations, working to have the republic recognized as its own nation and respected by members of the world community.

With a reminiscent chuckle, he said one of his favorite memories was “crashing” the Summit of the Americas in 1994. He fought to have the Conch Republic represented as an actual country of the Americas — and succeeded, gaining global attention and respect.

Before his illness, Peter was a welcome part of ceremonial welcomes for special visitors. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Before his illness, Peter often appeared at events welcoming special visitors to the Keys and the Conch Republic. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Peter has received praise from many world leaders for his diligence in advancing the “islands nation” over the years. The Conch Republic even issues citizen and diplomat passports, giving people the chance to gain “dual citizenship” as residents of their own country and honorary inhabitants of the republic.

More than his dedication and hard work, however, his undying love and admiration for the Conch Republic is what makes Peter Anderson so extraordinary.

“Every single day as secretary general is special, whether it’s greeting foreign ships or meeting the everyday people that want to join our tiny nation,” he said. “I love my job, I love this community, and I love the spirit that formed the Conch Republic, which is alive and well today.”

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Underwater Music Festival Rocks the Keys Reef

Carol Shaughnessy | July 2014

Almost 500 divers and snorkelers explored part of the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef last weekend, while rocking to a sub-sea concert during the 30th annual Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival.

Costumed divers pretend to play "musical instruments" while enjoying the Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival. (Photos by Bob Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Costumed divers pretend to play “musical instruments” while enjoying the Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival. (Photos by Bob Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Yes, an underwater concert. The quirky songfest took place in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary at Looe Key Reef, some six miles south of Big Pine Key. For the past three decades, the event has drawn several hundred divers and snorkelers each year to immerse themselves in the Keys’ colorful marine environment.

Lower Keys resident Bill Becker and a buddy started the offbeat festival as an arts and cultural offering, but they didn’t really expect it to last.

“Originally this was just supposed to be a one-time event,” said Bill. “People loved it. They said, ‘What a great idea. It’s normally a silent world down there, but with music now it just enhances the whole diving experience. Let’s do it every year.’ That was 30 years ago.”

This year as in the past, the four-hour marine musical event was staged by Keys radio station US1 Radio 104.1 FM — where Bill Becker is the longtime news director — in partnership with the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce. He programmed an ocean-themed playlist of selections that were broadcast underwater via speakers suspended beneath boats above the reef.

During the Underwater Music Festival, some divers spotted "mermaid" Samantha Langsdale frolicking beneath the waves.

During the Underwater Music Festival, some divers spotted “mermaid” Samantha Langsdale frolicking beneath the waves.

“We play a lot of the usual stuff — the theme from ‘The Little Mermaid,’ Octopus’s Garden, Yellow Submarine, a lot of Jimmy Buffett,” Bill explained. “New Age music sounds terrific underwater. We do the theme from ‘Jaws’ to keep the divers on their toes.”

Participants described the music as sounding clear and ethereal, and the underwater visibility as about 50 feet. And while Bill also included some whale songs, the broadcast didn’t attract any whales. (Smaller fish, though, actually seemed to like the underwater music — divers reported seeing them apparently swaying to the beat.)

“It’s the only place we know where music is put underwater for the divers, snorkelers, and marine life,” advised Bill.

But fish weren’t the only creatures to be spotted underwater. Some divers wore costumes (in fact, several were dressed as characters from the classic television show “Gilligan’s Island”) and pretended to play underwater musical instruments sculpted by Keys artist August Powers.

The talented artist creates a new piece for the festival every year, and each one blends elements of an actual instrument and an underwater denizen. Standouts have included his trom-bonefish and clambourine, and this year’s “Belushi Blues Fish,” a guitar-like fish sporting a “Blues Brothers” hat and shades.

Mike Limerick "plays" a riff on August Powers' sculpted "Belushi Blues Fish" instrument.

Mike Limerick “plays” a riff on August Powers’ sculpted “Belushi Blues Fish” instrument.

Snorkeler Uli Clef from Munich, Germany, said he was particularly impressed with the vivid colors and tropical fish he saw underwater.

“Music underwater — I’ve never heard of that before, so that’s really a unique thing,” he said when he surfaced. “All these colorful fishes … that’s perfect.”

As well as offering enjoyment for dive enthusiasts, the broadcast featured diver awareness announcements promoting reef preservation.

“We try to get divers to be aware of their impact on the coral reef so that they lessen that impact and this reef can be here for generations to come,” said Bill Becker.

And that should be music to every ocean-lover’s ears.

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Hemingway Days Spotlights Past and Present Literary Talent

Carol Shaughnessy | July 2014

When Lorian Hemingway judged the first Hemingway Days short story competition in 1981, she and her fellow judges sat in a Lower Keys cottage reading and evaluating the few dozen entries with care. They couldn’t possibly imagine that the competition would grow into a highly respected international literary contest.

Lorian Hemingway and Casa Antigua grand dame Mary Ann Worth share a quiet moment  in the historic property's atrium garden. (Photo by Tom Oosterhoudt, Conch Color)

Lorian Hemingway and Casa Antigua grand dame Mary Ann Worth share a quiet moment in the historic property’s atrium garden. (Photo by Tom Oosterhoudt, Conch Color)

Now, more than three decades later, the competition draws more than 1,000 entries each year from around the U.S. and other countries as far-flung as India and Romania. Lorian and her small judging panel — including Dr. Rob Merritt, a noted author and Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Bluefield College — still give every story their complete attention and respect.

The contest’s culmination is the literary highlight of Key West’s Hemingway Days, scheduled this year for July 15-20. The festival celebrates the work and exuberant Key West lifestyle of legendary writer Ernest Hemingway, who lived on the island throughout the 1930s.

Coordinating the competition is a pleasure and a passion for Lorian Hemingway, author of three critically acclaimed books, “Walking into the River,” “Walk on Water” and “A World Turned Over.” She’s also Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter and, like Ernest himself, feels a deep and elemental tie to Key West.

Author Lorian Hemingway shared her grandfather's fondness for Shine. (Photo by Michael Whalton)

In this early photo, author Lorian Hemingway chats with her grandfather’s old sparring partner,  Shine Forbes. (Photo by Michael Whalton)

Since its beginnings, the competition that bears Lorian’s name has been dedicated to recognizing and supporting the work of emerging writers — those whose fiction has not yet achieved major success.

“I consider it my job to honor the talent of emerging writers,” Lorian explained “And if those who enter this competition are compelled to continue to write as a result of receiving the recognition they so deserve, then we are all richer for it.”

Winners earn cash prizes as well as all-important validation of their worth as writers. In fact, over the years the contest has awarded nearly $75,000 to talented emerging writers.

The 2014 winners will be announced at 8 p.m. Friday, July 18, at Casa Antigua (314 Simonton St.). Famed as Ernest Hemingway’s first Key West residence, Casa Antigua is now a showplace with a magnificent atrium garden that’s open to the sky.

Casa Antigua, Ernest Hemingway's first Key West haven, is the site of the short story awards event.

Casa Antigua, Ernest Hemingway’s first Key West haven, is the site of the short story awards event.

The property is home to local publisher Tom Oosterhoudt and his mother Mary Ann Worth — and each year, they generously open it up for Lorian’s awards reception. The free-admission event includes a reading of the winning story, a presentation on Casa Antigua’s history by Tom Oosterhoudt, and rare tours of the architecturally unique property.

But that’s not the only attraction for readers and writers during Hemingway Days 2014. They can also enjoy an evening of readings by contemporary authors Wednesday, July 16. “Voices, Places, Inspirations” is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa at 601 Front St.

Scheduled participants include Michael Haskins, whose popular Key West crime thrillers feature “Mad Mick” Murphy; David Sloan, author of “The Key West Bucket List” and co-author of “Quit Your Job and Move to Key West,” among others; Steven Hull, who penned the gritty Hunter Benson series; journalist Mandy Bolen Miles, renowned for her “Tan Lines” books and columns; journalist Terry Schmida, whose “True Crime” series explores perfidy in paradise, and Canadian actor/playwright/author Brian Gordon Sinclair, creator of “Hemingway On Stage.”

Is this Ernest Hemingway? Or is it Brian Gordon Sinclair? (Hint: the bearded writer in the photo never lived in Key West.)

Brian Gordon Sinclair, shown here as Ernest during a “Hemingway On Stage” performance, is among the readers starring in “Voices, Places, Inspirations.”

The free-admission event, which includes a meet-the-authors reception, is presented by Literacy Volunteers of America–Monroe County. LVA–Monroe offers free, confidential, one-to-one and small group literacy training to Florida Keys residents eager to improve their reading, writing and English communication skills.

In addition, festival attendees can celebrate Hemingway’s little-known poetry during a reading at a site the author used to frequent. At 5 p.m. Thursday, July 17, the Key West Poetry Guild presents “The Poems of Papa” at the funky and fabulous Blue Heaven restaurant (729 Thomas St.) — where Ernest once refereed neighborhood boxing matches. Admission is free.

Want to know more about Hemingway Days 2014? Check out the full schedule of events here, and then head for Key West to join the festivities!

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Discover Vegan Black Metal Magic at Deer Run

Carol Shaughnessy | July 2014

It’s time to chop some onions with an ax! (Okay, not really with an ax …). But in this “Keys Voices” feature — written by Jennifer DeMaria, co-owner of Big Pine Key’s super-appealing environmentally-focused Deer Run Bed and Breakfast — you’ll discover that gourmet vegan food and metal music have an offbeat synergy (at least in the Florida Keys, which are admittedly a bit offbeat themselves).

Big Pine Keys' Deer Run bed-and-breakfast takes its name from the tiny, engandered Key deer that wander its tranquil grounds. (Photo courtesy of Deer Run)

Big Pine Key’s Deer Run bed-and-breakfast takes its name from the tiny, engandered Key deer that wander its tranquil grounds. (Photo courtesy of Deer Run)

What to know more? Jen shares the details in the paragraphs below.

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Join us Aug. 15-17 at Deer Run for an outstanding once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — highlighted by a cooking appearance and dinner with the Vegan Black Metal Chef.

The Vegan Black Metal Chef has two main purposes: to help bring consciousness into people’s lives and actions, and to help answer the question, “what do vegans eat?” He showcases vegan culinary skills in a fun, unique and informative way, and makes great music too!

The Vegan Black Metal Chef’s first cooking video on YouTube earned well over 2.5 MILLION views, and he travels domestically and internationally to spread the message of consciousness. He’s also a professional musician who writes and performs his original black metal music, and donates a portion of sales proceeds from his music to animal-friendly causes.

Metal music, vegan delicacies, and magic collide when the Vegan Black Metal Chef takes command.

Metal music, vegan delicacies, and magic collide when the Vegan Black Metal Chef takes command.

The Deer Run weekend package includes lodging, a full organic vegan breakfast daily, a guided six-hour eco-kayak tour in the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge with Captain Bill Keogh, nightly wine or cocktails, and the highlight cooking demonstration and dinner by the Vegan Black Metal Chef — who will chop, dice, slice and ax his way through organic grains, veggies and much more.

If you don’t know Deer Run, you have a great treat in store. Over the past decade my partner Harry and I have evolved it from a conventional inn to an internationally acclaimed “green” vegan B&B at the forefront of the sustainable tourism industry.

Deer Run lies down a winding road on Big Pine Key, nestled on a secluded, tree-shaded Atlantic Ocean beach close to two wildlife preserves. The grounds feature surprising nooks, shady areas and a hammock for lounging, a saltwater spa and saltwater pool, and a small treasure of a beach. It’s not unusual to see tiny Key deer, an endangered species that’s protected and cherished in the Lower Keys, wandering unconcernedly along the beach and shoreline.

Harry and I are both long-time vegans and dedicated animal-rights activists who support fair trade, small farmers and businesses and organic farming. With this retreat, we wanted to do something not done before in the veg community.

Each morning, Jen dreams up feasts to delight Deer Run's hungry guests.

Each morning during the retreat, Jen will dream up vegan feasts to delight hungry guests. (Photo couresty of Deer Run)

I’ve been a fan of the Vegan Black Metal Chef for years. He brings a breath of fresh air to the vegan movement, and is able to connect with people through music as well. He’s a visionary who brings a lot of fun, with absolutely no pretentiousness, to those living or striving to live with more consciousness.

This retreat event is limited to six people, so obviously reservations should be made early. If you want more details, or have any questions at all, please call me at 305-872-2015.

Deer Run’s Vegan Black Metal Chef weekend is exclusive, fresh, forward-thinking and mindful — while showcasing the amazing slice of paradise known as the Florida Keys. We hope to see you there!

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Key Lime Pie to Star in Key West Festival and World Record Attempt

Carol Shaughnessy | June 2014

It will require the juice of nearly 6,500 Key limes. Enough sweetened condensed milk to fill almost 1,000 margarita glasses. Enough graham crackers to outweigh the average Major League baseball player. And a pound of brown sugar for each of the 42 bridges on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway (plus four).

Paul Menta (left) and Jim Brush (right) smooth creamy filling into the giant pie's crust. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Paul Menta (left) and Jim Brush (right) smooth creamy filling into the 2013 world-record pie’s crust. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

It’s the world’s largest Key lime pie — and it’s slated to debut Friday, July 4, on Greene Street just off Key West’s famed Duval Street.

Yes, the four-person team of fanatics that earned a world record last year for creating the largest Key lime pie EVER is at it again. And this time they’re even more determined than they were last year.

“You cannot go anywhere below Miami and not find Key lime pie on the menu,” said head fanatic David Sloan. “It’s the official pie in the entire state of Florida.”

He’s right. In 2006, the tart, creamy dessert born in Key West in the late 1800s was voted the state pie by the Florida legislature. And David Sloan, coincidentally (or not so coincidentally) the author of “The Ultimate Key Lime Pie Cookbook,” is on a crusade to make his favorite confection famous around the world.

Key lime pie-makers (from left) Paul Menta, Jim Brush, David Sloan and Marky Pierson savor their triumph. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Key lime pie-makers (from left) Paul Menta, Jim Brush, David Sloan and Marky Pierson plan to top their 2013 triumph with an even larger pie in 2014. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

He’s not alone in this quest. Fellow fanatics include Marky Pierson, the festival’s co-founder and an artist whose work recently wowed visitors to the acclaimed Custom House Museum; chef and award-winning kiteboarder Paul Menta, who not long ago opened the Key West First Legal Rum Distillery; and Jim Brush, owner of the Key West Key Lime Pie Co., who’s an expert at thinking “outside the pie pan.”

In 2013, the quartet spearheaded the inaugural Key Lime Festival — and they intend the 2014 festival (like the pie!) to be bigger and better.

It’s set for July 3-5 with a schedule that features the wacky Miss Key Lime U.S.A. Pageant, pie-eating and cooking contests, and other tasty temptations. The fun starts Thursday, July 3, with a 2-5 p.m. Key Lime Cocktail Sip & Stroll featuring (what else?) Key lime martinis and margaritas at local watering holes.

Offbeat author David Sloan, who penned "The Ultimate Key Lime Pie Cookbook" and created the Key Lime Festival, decorates a  pie. (Photo by Rob O'Neal)

Offbeat author David Sloan, who penned “The Ultimate Key Lime Pie Cookbook” and co-created the Key Lime Festival, decorates a pie. (Photo by Rob O’Neal)

The “main course” is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, July 4: a lively street party that sets the stage for the debut of the world’s largest Key lime pie. While the 2013 pie was more than 8 feet in diameter and did indeed earn a world record, Sloan and his cohorts plan to shatter that record — by creating a Key lime pie that measures a whopping 9 feet in diameter.

Of course, you can’t just meander into a cooking supply place like Williams-Sonoma (or even Key West’s beloved Restaurant Store) and purchase a 9-foot pie pan. Last year the quartet constructed a custom pan, which was approximately the size of a pickup truck bed. This year … well, to misquote that classic line from the “Jaws” film, “They’re gonna need a bigger pan.”

As well as watching the final pie-making on July 4, spectators can sample the historic Key lime confection when slices are sold to benefit the Key West Firehouse Museum.

Lively lovelies starred in the 2013 Miss Key Lime U.S.A. Competition. (Photo courtesy of Key Lime Festival)

Lively lovelies starred in the 2013 Miss Key Lime U.S.A. Competition. (Photo courtesy of Key Lime Festival)

If that’s not enough, other festival attractions include a Key Lime Pie Eating Contest and a pie-making challenge for amateur and professional bakers.

And let’s not forget Saturday night’s Miss Key Lime U.S.A. Pageant, a tangy takeoff on the Miss America competition. The contestant who scores highest in the talent, costume, vintage style and Q-&-A categories will take the crown and step into the “limelight.”

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Find Florida Keys Adrenaline Adventures … All Year Round

Carol Shaughnessy | June 2014

Every day is an adventure in the Florida Keys, where the subtropical climate and scenic natural setting make an ideal backdrop for high-energy sporting activities all year round.

Entrants the Lazy Dog Paddleboard Race are tasked with paddling a 3-mile ocean course. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Entrants in the Lazy Dog Paddleboard Race are tasked with paddling a 3-mile ocean course. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

You can easily enjoy watersports and eco-excursions, unparalleled diving and offshore, inshore and flats fishing — no matter what the time of year. But the Keys also offer an energetic calendar of organized sporting events: marathons for runners, swim competitions, triathlons, cycling treks and much more.

For example, adrenaline enthusiasts can compete either on foot or on paddleboards in the Malibu Rum Hemingway 5k Sunset Run and Paddleboard Race set for Saturday, July 19.

It’s a highlight of the annual Hemingway Days festival, which celebrates the writing and exuberant outdoor lifestyle of the legendary author who spent the 1930s in Key West. You can test your strength in the 3-mile ocean paddleboard challenge, 5k run through historic Old Town — or even register for both!

And if you’re a paddleboard or self-propelled watercraft fan, Keys attractions also include the 12-mile Key West Paddleboard Classic. The race usually occurs in May, and the course takes you all the way around the United States’ southernmost island.

A field of 1,500 runners crosses the "hump" of the Seven Mile Bridge near Marathon during a past Seven Mile Bridge Run. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Runners cross the “hump” of the Seven Mile Bridge near Marathon during a past Seven Mile Bridge Run. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Have stamina to spare? Then consider competing in one of the Keys running events that test physical limits and personal resolve to the max. Chief among them is the KEYS100 Ultramarathon, also held in May, where U.S. and international contestants race 100 miles (yes, really!) from Key Largo to Key West.

Other Florida Keys running competitions include April’s Seven Mile Bridge Run across the longest segmental bridge in the world, and the Key Largo Bridge Run each November. And if you’re visiting Key West, enter the renowned Key West Half Marathon in January or the Southernmost Marathon & Half Marathon in October.

Looking for a shorter challenge? The Lower Keys’ No Name Race and the Middle Keys’ Sombrero Beach Run offer scenic trails and camaraderie during the island chain’s sunny winter months.

Besides running, the Florida Keys are home to swimming events that have inspired athletes for many years. They include the Florida Keys Community College Swim Around Key West, held each June, and Key Largo’s Orange Bowl Swimming Classic in January — a test of ability for the best collegiate swimmers in the U.S.

But that’s not all. If you enjoy mixing sports with history, check out Islamorada’s 8-mile Swim for Alligator Light. Generally scheduled for September, it helps raise awareness about the need to preserve the island chain’s aging lighthouses.

Larry Herlth begins a roundtrip swim to Alligator Reef Lighthouse. Swim founder Herlth, a Florida Keys artist,  created the event to call attention to preserving aging Florida Keys' lighthouses. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Larry Herlth begins a roundtrip swim to Alligator Reef Lighthouse. The Florida Keys artist created the Swim for Alligator Light to call attention to preserving Keys lighthouses. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

In addition, the Florida Keys host triathlons and cycling races that draw thousands of participants eager to vie for victory in multiple sports disciplines. If you’re one of them, start training for the annual Key West Triathlon. Held each December, it brings endurance-sports enthusiasts to compete in a fast-paced swim in ocean waters, bike ride and run along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline.

If cycling is your passion, the Keys also offer opportunities to enjoy biking vacations and tours. Among the most popular are the annual 200-mile BubbaFest Bike Tour, generally held in November, and the lively excursions hosted by Key Largo Bike and Adventure Tours.

Want to know more about Florida Keys athletic competitions (and other intriguing events)? Click here for a full calendar of challenges and adventures.

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