Argumentative Essay For Vegetarians Argumentative Essay On Vegetarianism Argumentative Essay On Vegetarian Diet Argumentative Paper On Vegetarianism Argumentative Essay On Video Games And Violence Argumentative Essay Against Violent Video Games Argumentative Essays About Violence In Video Games Argumentative Essay Violence In Video Games Argumentative Essay On Violent Video Games Argumentative Paper On Violent Video Games Argumentative Essay On Do Violent Video Games Cause Behavior Problems Argumentative Essay Writing Argumentative Essay Writing Prompts Argumentative Essay Writing Powerpoint Argumentative Essay Academic Writing Argumentative And Discursive Essay Writing Persuasive Writing And Argumentative Essay Writing An Argumentative Essay Ap Argumentative Essays Written By Students Argumentative Essay Letter From Birmingham Jail Argumentative Essay How To Write Introduction Argumentative Essay Writing Ppt Argumentative Essay Signal Words Argument Essay 250 Words Argumentative Essay 400 Words 500 Words Argumentative Essay Argumentative Essay Conclusion Words Gre Argument Essay Word Count Argumentative Essay Connective Words Argumentative Words For Essay Argumentative Essay Good Words Argumentative Essay Helpful Words Argumentative Words In An Essay Argumentative Essay Key Words Argumentative Essay Linking Words Words Of Argumentative Essay Argumentative Essay Words Phrases Argumentative Essay Prompts College Argument Essay Prompts For Middle School Writing Prompts For Argumentative Essay Argumentative Essay Claim Warrant Warrant In Argumentative Essay Argumentative Essay War On Drugs Argumentative Essay War Iraq Argumentative Essay Against War Argumentative Essay Vietnam War Argumentative Essay About War Argumentative Essay About War In Iraq Argumentative Essay On War And Peace Argumentative Essay On Afghanistan War Argumentative Essay About Vietnam War Argumentative Essay On Tomorrow When The War Began Argumentative Essay On Civil War Argumentative Essay On Cold War Argumentative Essay On War Argumentative Essay On War In Iraq Argumentative Essay On Vietnam War Argumentative Essay On World War 2 Argumentative Essay World War 1 Argumentative Essay Revolutionary War Argumentative Essay War On Terrorism Argumentative Essay On The War In Iraq Argumentative Essay On The War In Afghanistan Argumentative Essay On The War On Drugs Argumentative Essay On The Vietnam War Argumentative Essay On The Cold War Argumentative Essay Wikihow Argumentative Essay Wikileaks What Is An Argumentative Essay Wiki Argumentative Essay Over Beauty Pageants Argumentative Essay About Beauty Argumentative Essay On Beauty Pageants Argumentative Essay Against Beauty Pageants Argumentative Essay Malcolm X Gre Argument Essay Youtube Argumentative Essay Year Round School Argumentative Essay For Year Round School Argumentative Essay On Year Round School Argumentative Essay Young Goodman Brown Argumentative Essay Yoga Argumentative Essay On Yoga Argumentative Essay Youth Violence Argumentative Essay Youth Argumentative Essay About Youth Argumentative Essay About Youth Culture Argumentative Essay On Youth Violence Argumentative Essay On Youth Crime Argumentative Essays On Youth Argumentative Essay About The Yellow Wallpaper Argumentative Essay For The Yellow Wallpaper Argumentative Essay On The Yellow Wallpaper Argumentative Essay The Yellow Wallpaper Argumentative Essay Youth Today Argumentative Essay On Youth Of Today Argument Essay About Zoos Argumentative Essay About Zoos Argumentative Essay Keeping Animals Zoos Argumentative Essay For Zoos Argumentative Essay About Animals In Zoos Argumentative Essay Should Animals Be Kept In Zoos Argumentative Essay On Zoos Argumentative Essay On Zoos Prisons Or Sanctuaries Argumentative Essay About Zombies Argumentative Essay On Zombies Zwroty Do Argumentative Essay Persuasive Essay On Zero Tolerance Argumentative Essay Animal Zoo Argumentative Essay Zoos Prisons Or Sanctuaries Argumentative Essay On Ground Zero Mosque Persuasive Essay On Ground Zero Mosque Critical Thinking Company Critical Thinking 101 Critical Thinking 2nd Edition Critical Thinking 2013 Critical Thinking 3rd Edition Critical Thinking 4th Edition Critical Thinking Year 7 0cr Critical Thinking Critical Thinking Assessment Critical Thinking Academy Critical Thinking Bell Ringers Critical Thinking Business Critical Thinking Board Games Critical Thinking Concepts Critical Thinking Characteristics Critical Thinking Definition Nursing Critical Thinking Decision Making Critical Thinking Essay Critical Thinking Education Critical Thinking Fallacies Critical Thinking Flow Sheet For Nursing Students Critical Thinking Games Critical Thinking Goals Critical Thinking Habits Critical Thinking Hesi A2 Critical Thinking Handbook Critical Thinking History Critical Thinking How To Critical Thinking Handout Critical Thinking Is Smart Thinking That Involves Critical Thinking Is Critical Thinking In Business Critical Thinking Kids Books Critical Thinking Knowledge Critical Thinking Kids Definition Critical Thinking Means Critical Thinking Notes Critical Thinking Nursing Process Critical Thinking News Critical Thinking Organization Critical Thinking Process Critical Thinking Psychology Critical Thinking Paper Critical Thinking Pdf Critical Thinking Powerpoint Critical Thinking Requires That Critical Thinking Research Critical Thinking Scenarios Critical Thinking Standards Critical Thinking Theory Critical Thinking University Think-o-meter Critical Thinking Us History Critical Thinking Video Critical Thinking Vocabulary Critical Thinking Vs Clinical Reasoning Critical Thinking Wiki Critical Thinking Words Critical Thinking Web Church Critical Thinking Planet X Critical Thinking You Need Knowledge Summary Critical Thinking You Need Knowledge Diane Ravitch Critical Thinking Young Children Critical Thinking You Decide Critical Thinking Project Zero Zeitgeist Critical Thinking Critical Thinking Definition For Students Critical Thinking And Definition Critical Thinking Argument Definition Critical Thinking Ability Definition Critical Thinking Its Definition And Assessment Critical Analytical Thinking Definition Apa Critical Thinking Definition Critical Thinking Basic Definition Critical Thinking Biology Definition Brookfield Critical Thinking Definition Definition Of Critical Thinking By John Dewey Critical Thinking Competency Definition Critical Thinking Claim Definition Critical Thinking Clarity Definition Critical Thinking Definition Dictionary Com Critical Thinking Community Wikipedia Critical Thinking Definition Dictionary Critical Thinking Doesn Mean Just Criticizing Critical Thinking Definition Business Dictionary Critical Thinking Definition Education Critical Thinking Definition Essay Critical Thinking Definition Ennis Critical Thinking Easy Definition Critical Thinking Explanation Definition Critical Thinking Extended Definition Critical Thinking English Definition Critical Thinking An Extended Definition Petress Critical Thinking Definition For Nursing Facione Critical Thinking Definition Critical Thinking General Definition Critical Thinking Definition Harvard Critical Thinking In Wikipedia Critical Thinking Means Making Judgments Based On _______________ Definition Of Critical Thinking By Kerlinger Critical Thinking Definition Literature Critical Legal Thinking Definition Language And Critical Thinking Definition Logic And Critical Thinking Definition Critical Thinking Definition Merriam Critical Thinking Mean Median Mode Critical Thinking Definition For Kids Critical Thinking Definition Oxford Dictionary Critical Thinking Definitions Ocr Critical Thinking Operational Definition Critical Thinking Wikipedia Org Define Critical Thinking Oxford Dictionary Critical Thinking Definition Philosophy Critical Thinking Principle Definition Critical Thinking Personal Definition Critical Thinking Definition Richard Paul Critical Reflective Thinking Definition Robert Ennis Critical Thinking Definition Critical Thinking Definition Sociology Critical Thinking Short Definition Critical Thinking Simplified Definition Critical Thinking Strategies Definition Critical Thinking Definition Middle School Weak Sense Critical Thinking Definition Strong Sense Critical Thinking Definition Critical Thinking Means To Critical Thinking Terms Definition What Is Critical Thinking Mean To You Definition Of Critical Thinking In The Workplace Critical Thinking Definition Wikipedia Critical Thinking Definition Webster Critical Thinking Working Definition What Is Critical Thinking Definition Critical Thinking Reading And Writing Definition Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Definition Critical Thinking Quiz 1 Critical Thinking Appraisal Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Quiz Nursing Critical Thinking Quiz Week 7 Critical Thinking Definition By Richard Paul Critical Thinking Definition Business Critical Thinking 10th Edition Ebook Critical Thinking 10th Edition Answer Key Thinking Critically 10th Edition By John Chaffee Critical Thinking 10th Edition Chapter 1 Thinking Critically 10th Edition Chaffee Critical Thinking 10th Edition John Chaffee Pdf Critical Thinking 10th Edition Mcgraw-hill Chaffee John. Thinking Critically 10th Edition. Houghton Mifflin 2012 Critical Thinking 10th Edition John Chaffee Critical Thinking 10th Edition Online Critical Thinking 101 Video Critical Thinking 1010 Critical Thinking English 101 Critical Thinking 10e Answers Critical Thinking 10e Mcgraw Hill Critical Thinking 2nd Canadian Edition Beginning Algebra With Critical Thinking 2nd Edition Ocr As Critical Thinking Student Book 2nd Edition Critical Thinking Through Debate Corcoran 2nd Edition Critical Thinking The Art Of Argument 2nd Custom Edition. Rainbolt Amp Dwyer Critical Thinking Through Debate. Nelson Corcoran. 2nd Edition Vaughn And Macdonald#39s The Power Of Critical Thinking 2nd Canadian Edition Critical Thinking Through Debate 2nd Edition Critical Thinking Alec Fisher 2nd Edition Critical Thinking Tactics For Nurses 2nd Edition From Critical Thinking To Argument 2nd Edition Critical Thinking (2nd Edition) By Jason Mcfaul Power Of Critical Thinking 2nd Edition Power Of Critical Thinking 2nd Canadian Edition Pdf Power Of Critical Thinking 2nd Canadian Edition The Power Of Critical Thinking 2nd Edition The Power Of Critical Thinking 2nd Edition Pdf Critical Thinking Building The Basics 2nd Edition Critical Thinking The Art Of Argument 2nd Edition The Power Of Critical Thinking 2nd Canadian Edition Power Of Critical Thinking Vaughn 2nd Edition Foundations Critical Thinking Reading And Writing 2nd Edition Critical Thinking Conference 2013 Thinking Critically 2013 Edition Think Critically 2013 Facione Think Critically Facione 2013 Online Critical Thinking 21st Century Education Critical Thinking For The 21st Century Ut Austin Critical Thinking In 21st Century Teaching Critical Thinking Using Seminars For 21st Century Literacy Critical Thinking Shaping The Mind Of The 21st Century Critical Thinking In The 21st Century Critical Thinking 21st Century Critical Thinking Books 1 Amp 2 Ocr Critical Thinking Unit 2 June 2011

Keys Voices Main Archive

Saving the Whales: the Triumph of Two Survivors

Julie Botteri | May 2011

Last week I witnessed the strength of the human spirit’s resolve to maintain the delicate balance between man, mammal and nature in these islands.

Art Cooper of the Marine Mammal Conservancy attempts to help two of the whales shortly after they were discovered stranded off Cudjoe Key. (Photo by Mariela Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Bob Coakley of the Marine Mammal Conservancy attempts to help two of the whales shortly after they were discovered stranded off Cudjoe Key. (Photo by Mariela Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Thursday, May 5, a massive stranding response team of skilled veterinarians, and volunteers — more than 500 strong — joined forces with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and Marine Mammal Conservancy (MMC) staff to save survivors of a pod of weakened pilot whales stranded in shallow Gulf of Mexico waters among mangroves near Cudjoe Key.

The nation’s eyes were trained on the people working feverishly to save survivors, who, among shifting sand bars, coral heads and changing tides, faced tenuous futures.

By Friday morning, seven live whales were safely corralled in a sea pen, a containment area functioning as a triage site.

Marine mammal rescuers load begin to load one of the soon-to-released whales onto a boat for transport to the release site. (Photo by Bob Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Marine mammal rescuers begin to load one of the soon-to-released whales onto a barge for transport to the release site. (Photo by Bob Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)

A makeshift tent camp bustled with wetsuit-clad men and women charting vital signs, fielding calls from search and recovery boats (sadly, 14 whales perished), stockpiling food, water, trucks, transportation vehicles, boats, personnel and equipment.

Soon, there was a mobile veterinary laboratory.

During the flurry of activity, the whales remained calm.

Volunteers worked tirelessly in four-hour shifts, day and night, buoying the whales at the surface to breathe, keeping them wet and covered from the sun, hydrated and tube-fed with Pedialyte and a liquid chum.

Saturday, after collecting and analyzing blood and tissue samples, morphometrics (body measurements) and tagging dorsal fins with tracking devices, veterinarians deemed two male pilot whales viable to be released.

Watching the crane-laden barge gingerly hoist each of the two whales into slings was a breathtaking, nerve-wracking blip in time.

The first of the pilot whales is released into deep water off the Lower Keys. (Photo by Julie Botteri, Florida Keys News Bureau)

The first of the pilot whales is released into deep water off the Lower Keys. (Photo by Julie Botteri, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Slowly settling the whales on the barge’s deck, careful not to crush their heart and lungs beneath their own weight, teams kept them wet and covered in zinc to prevent blistering in the afternoon sun.

Zooming my camera within inches of the first-loaded whale, my breath caught — his giant doe eye rolled up at me, looked into me. I was awash in guilt over the strange situation he was in, amazed and blessed I could be so close.

“It’s going to be okay, buddy. Hang in there,” I said quietly.

Under way, volunteers sponged water over the whales’ delicate skin, while veterinarians monitored vital signs and respiration. The survival of these mammals was paramount.

Two of the five whales transferred to Key Largo's Marine Mammal Conservancy for rehab prepare to begin their journey in a refrigerated truck. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Two of the five whales transferred to Key Largo's Marine Mammal Conservancy for rehab prepare to begin their journey in a refrigerated truck. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Finally, we reached 523 feet of water, nine miles offshore.

Videographer Bob Care and I boarded a small boat to record the release, as eight people grabbed the sling’s straps, maneuvering the whales forward to easily slip off the edge of the barge’s foam padding into the blue.

The first whale dived down, surfaced and popped his blowhole like a snorkel, pausing, almost beckoning to the second, “Are you ready? Let’s go.”

Immediately, the second whale entered the water. The pair dove deep and disappeared. It was magical. The group of us left watching at the surface waited a moment, then whooped and hollered. They’d made it!

Marine mammal rescuers tend to four of five pilot whales transported to the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Marine mammal rescuers tend to four of five pilot whales transported to the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Exhausted and exhilarated, volunteers returned to the pen area, greeted by the remaining five whales’ squeals and squeaky chatter — a reminder they are not out of the woods yet.

Early Tuesday, experts successfully transported these five to a rehabilitation center 82 miles away in Key Largo, in a temperature-controlled Publix Supermarkets’ semi-trailer. Unfortunately, one of them later got too sick to save.

Rehabilitation of the remaining four could take months, but perhaps Blair Mase, NOAA’s southeast stranding coordinator, best summed up the combined efforts to safely move the animals:

“It takes a village to save some whales.”

Comments

Portrait of Two Artists

Carol Shaughnessy | May 2011

Some people visit Key West just for the fun of it, while others come to enjoy the laid-back lifestyle. Then too, there are the artists and craftspeople who find themselves irresistibly drawn to the island for the inspiration it provides. (Though few people remember this, even former president Dwight Eisenhower began painting during a stay in Key West in the 1950’s.)

Beloved folk artist Mario Sanchez recreated the Key West of his boyhood in his painted wood carvings -- many containing elements of subtle humor. (Photo courtesy of the Key West Museum of Art & History).

Folk artist Mario Sanchez captured the Key West of his boyhood in his painted wood carvings. (Sanchez photos courtesy of the Key West Museum of Art & History and Gallery on Greene)

In fact, it’s hard to walk down the tranquil streets of Key West’s Old Town district without coming upon at least one artist intent on an easel. The colorful Victorian architecture and strong tropical light are pretty well irresistible to painters — and the atmosphere of creativity has encouraged craftsmen from palm-frond weavers to the late Mario Sanchez, who was widely regarded as the 20th century’s most important Cuban-American folk artist.

With wood, simple brushes, and chisels, Sanchez recreated the Key West of his boyhood in three-dimensional painted woodcarvings. His vivid and often humorous images feature subjects ranging from street vendors and cigar makers to dancers, gossiping women and chicken thieves.

Key West's historic courthouse is vividly portrayed in this classic Sanchez piece.

Key West's historic courthouse is vividly portrayed in this classic Sanchez piece.

In addition, Sanchez’ work portrays colorful impressions of island landmarks — including Ernest Hemingway’s one-time home, the Key West Lighthouse and the San Carlos Institute.

He began his pieces as sketches on brown paper bags. Slowly, carving and adding the bright primary colors of the tropics, he produced incredible, unforgettable primitive art.

Like Mario Sanchez’ masterworks, much of the other art found in the Keys mirrors the island chain’s characteristic lightheartedness, irreverence, and appreciation for life.

That’s especially true of the pieces created by leading American sculptor Seward Johnson, a part-time Key West resident. Johnson is world-renowned for his trompe l’oeil life-sized cast bronzes of ordinary people engaged in everyday activities.

Seward Johnson's gigantic "American Gothic" figures stood outside the Key West Museum of Art & HIstory until they were replaced by another evocative pair of Johnson giants. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Seward Johnson's gigantic "American Gothic" figures stood outside the Key West Museum of Art & History until they were replaced by another evocative pair of Johnson giants. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Placed in public settings around the world, they’re so realistic that they unfailingly elicit double-takes and grins.

Johnson arrived in Key West with his wife in the early 1990s. For the past several years, his pieces have been a starring attraction in and around the Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House.

His exhibits have included “Beyond the Frame,” three-dimensional life-sized interpretations of 19th-century paintings — constructed so that visitors actually step into the scenes to become (at least temporarily) part of the artwork.

His “Icons” showcase included “Forever Marilyn,” a life-sized three-dimensional take on the famous photograph of Marilyn Monroe, dressed in white, with a flirtatiously blowing skirt. (That piece, by the way, now stands in front of Key West’s beloved Tropic Cinema on Eaton Street.)

Visitors to Johnson's "Behind the Frame" exhibit at the Key West Museum of Art & History could actually step into this lifesize sculpture to become part of the artwork. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Visitors to Johnson's "Beyond the Frame" exhibit at the Key West Museum of Art & History could actually step into this lifesize sculpture to become part of the artwork. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Johnson’s work overflows the Custom House building and spills out onto the grounds. A gigantic pair of his sculptures stands in front of the museum, beckoning people in to discover more. And his multi-figure piece in the garden behind the Custom House literally stops people in their tracks. (It’s inspired by “The Dance” by Henri Matisse — look that up and you’ll see why it’s so startling!)

Not unexpectedly, given its artistic richness, Key West is home to a variety of galleries. Stroll around historic Old Town district and you’ll find galleries offering Haitian primitives, art glass, folk art, original oils and watercolors, bronzes and other sculptures, offbeat “gyotaku” fish prints, and much more.

For an inspiring “big picture” of the arts scene in Key West and the Florida Keys, just click here.

Comments

Dive into Matrimony in the Keys

Julie Botteri | April 2011

The romantic Florida Keys appeal to both landlubber lovers and those who can’t wait to get into the water to explore the undersea environment. The Keys’ clear, warm waters even attract scuba aficionados ready to tie the knot at the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef — often with exotic sea creatures in attendance.

Couples in love can have a dolphin for their "best man" at Islamorada's Theater of the Sea. (Photo courtesy of Theater of the Sea)

Couples in love can have a dolphin for their "best man" at Islamorada's Theater of the Sea. (Photo courtesy of Theater of the Sea)

In fact, in North America’s most popular dive destination, brides and grooms and their attendants can don gowns, tuxedos and scuba tanks to “take the plunge” into matrimonial adventure.

Scores of saltwater ceremonies are performed by Captain Spencer Slate of Atlantis Dive Center, a self-proclaimed “Justice of the Pisces” who has officiated at underwater weddings in the waters off Key Largo for more than 30 years. One of them even landed in the Guinness Book of World Records — and featured 110 divers, all wearing Halloween costumes!

Probably the Upper Keys’ most popular underwater nuptial niche is the nine-foot-high shrine of “Christ of the Abyss.” The 4,000-pound bronze statue stands in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, within the boundaries of Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. (FYI, Pennekamp was the first underwater preserve in the United States and recently celebrated its 50th birthday.)

The compelling statue is one of the most photographed underwater sites in the world. Its timeless features and welcoming arms, seemingly lifted in eternal benediction, make it a perfect place to exchange “I do’s.”

Tuxes, wedding gowns and scuba gear are the proper attire for those diving into matrimony in the Florida Keys.

Tuxes, wedding gowns and discreet scuba gear are the proper attire for those diving into matrimony in the Florida Keys.

At Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort, love is in the name. Yes, the resort’s moniker is a tongue-in-cheek blend of  “amore,” the Italian word for love, and “a moray” eel — one of the dive instructors’ friendly reef pets often seen on dives and during wedding ceremonies. If you’re ready to dive into matrimony, chances are you’ll fall in love with Amoray’s private charters, onboard parties and imaginative approach.

But you don’t have to be UNDER the water to have a unique water-themed wedding in the Upper Keys. At Islamorada’s Theater of the Sea, marine mammal fans can plan a ceremony with dolphins as part of the wedding party! Couples in love can reserve the park for an evening, and Theater of Sea’s trained staff will help choreograph dolphin behavior shows to their choice of wedding music.

For a real cetacean celebration, the bride can even arrive at the ceremony in a floating chariot accompanied by dolphins.

Of course, a unique marine-themed wedding deserves an equally unique honeymoon — and what better place than the world’s only underwater hotel?

Following an underwater wedding, consider honeymooning at the world's only underwater hotel -- located in Key Largo.

Following an underwater wedding, consider honeymooning at the world's only underwater hotel -- located in Key Largo.

Located in Key Largo and called Jules’ Undersea Lodge, the fascinating honeymoon habitat has even been featured on television’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Honeymooning dive enthusiasts can spend the night there, with amenities including a gourmet meal prepared by a “mer-chef,” among the marine life of the Keys.

Imagine waking up on the first morning of your married life five fathoms beneath the sea, with vivid-colored tropical fish peering in the wide windows to share your happiness.

Want more info on wedding opportunities — underwater, offbeat or even traditional — in the romantic Florida Keys? Just say “I do” and click here.

Comments

Beware of Strange Bedfellows in Strange Key West Race

Carol Shaughnessy | April 2011

In most places, beds are reserved for sleeping or amorous activities. But not in the Conch Republic — where, on a Saturday afternoon in late April each year, they’re propelled along Key West’s famed Duval Street on wheels in the annual Conch Republic Red Ribbon Bed Race.

Even NBC "Today" weatherman Al Roker (left) and anchor Matt Lauer are fans of the irreverent Conch Republic. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Even NBC "Today" weatherman Al Roker (left) and anchor Matt Lauer are fans of the irreverent Conch Republic. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

The wacky charity event is always a highlight of the annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration, created to mark the day the Florida Keys seceded from the United States after a 1982 U.S. Border Patrol blockade of the island chain. (FYI, the motto of the republic, which calls itself the world’s first fifth-world nation, is “We Seceded Where Others Failed.”)

Billed as “the most fun you can have in bed with your clothes on,” the bed race pits multi-person teams against each other as they pilot their beds along Duval (which, by the way, is often called the longest street in the world because it stretches from the Atlantic Ocean at one end to the Gulf of Mexico at the other).

According to bed race rules (yes, there ARE rules), each colorfully decorated bed must be mounted on wheels and either pushed or pulled by costumed team members. At least one team member must ride on the bed.

These strange bedfellows go for speed during a past year's race down Duval Street. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

These strange bedfellows go for speed during a past year's race down Duval Street. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

“They’re in for the ride of their lives, because they’re not steering — there are no functional steering devices allowed,” said a Bed Race veteran who insisted on remaining nameless. “This isn’t the type of event where you read the newspaper in bed, that’s for sure.”

Past years’ races have featured a bed decorated like a smoke-blowing dragon, one accompanied by a gaggle of caged drag queens, one whose team members were dressed only in g-strings and chained to the bedposts, and many others that defy description.

The 2011 Bed Race is set to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 30, with a parade of beds followed by the competition itself. If you join the spectators on Duval Street for the freewheeling sporting challenge, prepare to encounter some pretty strange bedfellows (and possibly a few who are three sheets to the wind!).

Supporters of the quirky republic show their conch spirit. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Supporters of the quirky republic show their conch spirit. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

While the bed race is the oldest event on the Conch Republic Independence Celebration’s schedule, it’s not necessarily the most eccentric. The festival runs April 22 through May 1 with highlights including a “drag” race for dressed-up drag queens in staggeringly high heels and the colorful so-called “world’s longest parade.”

There’s also a pirates’ ball and pig roast, a lighthearted sea battle featuring tall ships, a pet stroll for “party animals,” the Conch Crawl showcasing favorite watering holes, a sailing race that recalls the Keys’ historic shipwreck salvage tradition, and a whole lot more.

So don’t pull the covers over your head and hit the alarm clock’s snooze button. Instead, exchange your jammies for traveling garb — and head down to the Conch Republic to be part of its exuberant annual celebration.

Comments

Keys Tarpon Fishing: Going for the Silver … On Your Own

Andy Newman | April 2011

It’s not called the silver king for nothing.

There is simply no other acrobatic fish on the inshore fishing scene more coveted by anglers than the tarpon.

A tarpon seemingly stands on its tail after being hooked in the Florida Keys. (Photo by Pat Ford)

A tarpon seemingly stands on its tail after being hooked in the Florida Keys. (Photo by Pat Ford)

Known for their high-leaping ability, tarpon are powerful and tenacious. It’s sometimes easy to get them to bite a bait, but often they have lockjaw and can frustrate anglers and captains alike.

I had caught and released a number of tarpon, but those achievements always came under the tutelage of a professional Florida Keys fishing guide.

I wanted to do it myself.

So late last Friday afternoon, I armed myself with the necessary fishing gear, including two conventional reels spooled with 25-pound-test line, two new Key Largo graphite rods, 80-pound test leader and a few 7/0 Owner hooks. I purchased a few live crabs and took off from Islamorada with my wife in our 14-foot Panga with a 40hp Yamaha outboard motor.

(It should be noted that I did tap the expertise of several guides at Bud ‘N’ Mary’s Fishing Marina. Hey, local knowledge is always important.)

We motored to a location close to Lignumvitae Key on the bay side of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway in Islamorada. Just as we arrived on location, a huge tarpon, weighing at least 140 pounds, leaped in front of the boat.

“Did you see that, Maria?” I screamed to my wife.

She had missed it, but it was a good omen. We set the anchor and floated our lines back behind the boat, and it didn’t take long to get that first bite.

In April 2008, former President George H. Bush, left, caught and released a 135-pound tarpon while fishing with guide George Wood, right, in Islamorada. )Photo by Andy Mill)

In April 2008, former President George H. Bush, left, caught and released a 135-pound tarpon while fishing with guide George Wood, right, in Islamorada. (Photo by Andy Mill)

First, it was just a slight twitch of the rod tip. Then a more pronounced movement. I looked at it, thinking something wasn’t just right and perhaps some seaweed had entangled in the line. But seconds later, the rod doubled over and the reel began screaming as line stripped from the reel.

This was no seaweed for sure.

I remembered previous instructions and held the rod up and started reeling. You never, ever want to jerk the rod back to try to set the hook in a tarpon. Just keep a bend in the rod and, if the tarpon jumps, simply bow to the fish while it’s in the air to loosen up the pressure.

I tried to hand the rod off to my wife because she had never caught a tarpon before.

“No, you need to catch this fish,” she said.

With Maria driving the boat (it was the first time she had piloted a boat to follow a fish), we took off to get some line back, because the tarpon was headed to the open ocean.

Blog author Andy Newman gets ready to go out tarpon fishing. (Photo by Maria Newman)

Blog author Andy Newman gets ready to go out tarpon fishing. (Photo by Maria Newman)

The fish jumped a half-dozen times, shaking with those big silver scales glistening in the setting sun like hundreds of tiny mirrors. Every time it came out of the water, we reacted with a scream or an “Oh, my God.”

We chased that fish trying to get the leader to the boat because, in order to score an official release, the angler or the captain needs to touch the leader. We came close at least a half-dozen times, but my wife just couldn’t reach out far enough to tap the leader.

The fish took us into shallow water, then into deep water around navigation aids and around stone crab trap buoys. I thought for sure were going to lose it, but about 40 minutes later Maria was able to touch the leader and hold it long enough for me to grab it and break it close to the hook.

We estimated the fish’s weight at about 80 to 100 pounds. It swam away, none the worse for wear (most hooks left in fish eventually corrode away), and we were ecstatic.

Although the sun had set, we figured we should give it one more try. We went back to our location and put out the crabs again. Unbelievably, five minutes later we were on again to another tarpon.

Richard Stanczyk, mentor to Andy and scores of Keys anglers, shows off a nice Spanish mackerel caught on fly off Islamorada. (Photo by Andy Newman)

Richard Stanczyk, mentor to Andy and scores of Keys anglers, shows off a nice Spanish mackerel caught on fly off Islamorada. (Photo by Andy Newman)

This time I insisted that Maria take the rod. This was a different fish and, incredibly, I was able to touch the leader after a 10-minute fight. We had officially released two tarpon for the evening, she got her first and we were elated.

I reported the news the next morning to my professional guiding friends.

“So can I book you for a tarpon trip tonight?” my friend Richard asked with a grin.

I politely declined, laughing at the thought, even though I knew Richard was kidding. After all, I’m an amateur when compared to the pros in the Keys who have years of experience under their belts.

Besides, I would have never been able to have caught those fish without the previous experience of fishing with a pro and without “local knowledge.” Not to mention the fact that, for the past few weeks, the tarpon fishing action in the Keys has been simply phenomenal. The fish are seemingly everywhere around the bridges and channels between the ocean and bay.

It reminded me of the very first tarpon I caught and released back 21 years ago.

I had reported the accomplishment to the late Jim Hardie, the longtime outdoors writer at the “Miami Herald.” In his column a few days later he wrote, “If Andy Newman is catching tarpon, they must be biting like fleas.”

I’m here to tell you that’s exactly the case.

Comments

Adventure and Seafaring Spirit Rule the Keys

Carol Shaughnessy | April 2011

In 1822, when Key West was a brand-new seafaring settlement, the U.S. government sent Commodore David Porter to banish pirates from area waters. With his “anti-piracy squadron” of small schooners and barges, Porter pursued his prey into mangrove coves and inlets, persisting until the pirate rogues were gone.

Porter tried to banish buccaneers like these, but they can still be spotted at the annual Key Largo Pirates Fest. (Photo by Bob Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Porter tried to banish buccaneers like these, but they can still be spotted at the annual Key Largo Pirates Fest. (Photo by Bob Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Yet even Porter couldn’t vanquish the buccaneering spirit of adventure and individuality that characterized the Florida Keys.

Today, that spirit is one of the most intriguing — and enduring — things about the 125-mile-long island chain. You’ll discover the Keys’ renegade seafaring heritage in museums and attractions, shipwreck and treasure tales, dive and snorkel trips, and sailing cruises aboard historic tall ships.

Many early settlers in Key West and Islamorada were wreckers — salvaging goods from ships that sank along the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, which runs parallel to the Keys.

FYI, despite popular myths, the wreckers weren’t lawless outlaws interested only in lining their own pockets. They actually became an early Coast Guard, often rescuing crews and passengers off sinking ships.

At the Key West Shipwreck Museum, visitors can "meet" wreckers and learn their fascinating stories. (Photo courtesy of Historic Tours of America)

At the Key West Shipwreck Museum, visitors can meet "wreckers" and learn their fascinating stories. (Photo courtesy of Historic Tours of America)

Admittedly, they also earned a tidy profit. In the mid-1800s, the wrecking industry made Key West the wealthiest city per capita in the entire U.S.

Current-day visitors to the Keys can relive that era — by touring a Key West wrecking museum where re-enactors portray the industry’s colorful captains and crew. It’s also possible (and fascinating!) to visit Indian Key Historic State Park in the Upper Keys. The 10-acre island was once a busy port established by renowned wrecker Jacob Housman.

Long before the shipwreck salvors arrived, fleets of Spanish galleons sailed regularly past the Keys carrying goods and treasures from the New World home to Spain. Many ships sank in the area — including 13 from Spain’s 1733 fleet, which went down in the waters from Key Largo to Grassy Key.

The exploits of treasure salvage pioneer Art McKee are showcased at the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum. (Photo courtesy of the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum)

The exploits of treasure salvage pioneer Art McKee are showcased at the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum. (Photo courtesy of the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum)

Today these shipwreck sites (a few in VERY shallow water) represent some of the oldest artificial reefs in North America. Modern seafarers can take dive or snorkel excursions to explore them, and spot their remaining ballast stones and timbers surrounded by protected corals and marine life.

Popular dive sites include the wreck of El Rubi or Capitana, the flagship of the 1733 fleet. In the late 1930s, Art McKee began salvaging the vessel’s remains — recovering cannons, religious medallions, silver pieces of eight, gold doubloons, weapons, navigational instruments, ship’s fittings and so many silver bars that he was nicknamed “Silver Bar McKee.”

You can find out more about his salvage efforts in a remarkable exhibit at the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum, located in Islamorada.

To discover the Keys’ most famous wreck — dubbed “the shipwreck of the century” by the national press — head for the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West. The museum showcases artifacts and treasures from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha, found off Key West in 1985 by shipwreck salvor Mel Fisher after a 16-year search.

Today, Keys seafaring adventurers are still salvaging shipwreck glories -- like this centuries-old gold necklace and medallions found by divers from Mel Fisher's Treasures. (Photo by Sharon Wiley, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Today, Keys adventurers are still salvaging shipwreck glories -- like this centuries-old gold necklace found by divers from Mel Fisher's Treasures. (Photo by Sharon Wiley, Florida Keys News Bureau)

At the museum, you’ll see priceless objects from the Atocha and Santa Margarita, both lost in a 1622 hurricane — including a 77-karat emerald, gold chains, ship’s fittings, navigational instruments, gold and silver coins, and silver bars as big as shoeboxes.

If you want experience the Keys’ seafaring history for yourself, you’ve got two major choices.

First, you can set sail aboard a tall ship or schooner — and maybe even help the crew raise the sails. Many excursion vessels are docked in Key West’s Historic Seaport, once the heart of the island’s salvaging and commercial fishing industries.

Or, if your daydreams focus on the Keys’ piratical past, join brigands and wenches at Key West’s annual Pirates in Paradise Festival or the annual Key Largo Pirates Fest. With activities ranging from “attacking” unsuspecting landlubbers to savoring tankards of grog, they offer a great chance to celebrate the buccaneering spirit that still rules the Keys.

Comments

Key Lime Pie: The Sweeter Side of Keys Cuisine

Christina Baez | March 2011

Just about every city boasts a signature dish — one that local residents love and curious travelers simply HAVE to try. For example, there’s New Orleans’ jambalaya, Chicago’s deep-dish pizza and Philadelphia’s cheese steak sandwich. In the Florida Keys & Key West, that dish is Key lime pie.

What makes a blog author happy in the Florida Keys? In Christina's case, it's a luscious slice ofKey lime pie.

What makes a blog author happy in the Florida Keys? In Christina's case, it's a luscious slice of Key lime pie.

Key lime pie is made from the Key lime, a fruit indigenous to the Keys that’s smaller and rounder than limes typically found in a grocery store. In fact, Key lime pie is the official pie of the entire State of Florida, and millions of slices are savored each year by visitors and locals.

Its exact birthdate and creator are unknown, but the pie was likely created in Key West in the late 19th century — before refrigeration, and before the debut of the Oversea Railway that brought fresh ingredients like milk to the island at high speed.

Recipes for the original Key lime pie don’t require refrigeration OR baking. Instead, the acid in the Key lime juice reacts chemically with the other ingredients (a process called souring) and “cooks” the pie.

The typical ingredients of an authentic Key lime pie are sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, Key lime juice and a crust generally made from butter and graham crackers. The egg yolks give the pie a yellowish coloring (green pies are absolutely NOT authentic).

Few desserts are more deliciously decadent than frozen chocolate-covered Key lime pie on a stick.

Few desserts are more deliciously decadent than frozen chocolate-covered Key lime pie on a stick.

“I’m always amazed that these simple ingredients can make such a wonderful pie,” said Kermit Carpenter, resident Key lime pie expert and the owner of Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe.

Key lime pie can be enjoyed with many toppings, but a controversy has raged for decades over whether whipped cream or meringue is better. Each has its devoted supporters, and the two factions never seem to tire of quarrelling.

Today, Key lime pie is found in many forms throughout the Keys — dipped in chocolate and frozen on a stick at Kermit’s, deep-fried at Porky’s Bayside Restaurant in Marathon or even mixed with multiple flavors.

The pie also has inspired nontraditional Key lime–flavored items: Key lime jerk seasoning from Peppers of Key West, Key Lime Wing Sauce from Kermit’s, homemade Key lime ice cream at Flamingo Crossing in Key West and the milkshake-like Key lime freeze at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo.

Key lime pie lovers have battled for decades over whether whipped cream or meringue makes a tastier topping.

Key lime pie lovers have battled for decades over whether whipped cream or meringue makes a tastier topping.

A good Key lime pie should be naturally tart and stiff, standing up well on a plate yet still looking and feeling creamy.

Where’s the best version in the Keys? Take the road less traveled (i.e., Card Sound Road) to Key Largo’s Alabama Jack’s, and you’ll find a Key lime pie so smooth and cool it could be mistaken for ice cream.

Bob’s Bunz in Islamorada is known for enormous cinnamon and sticky buns, but their Key lime pie is a favorite for its tart lime flavor and creamy cheesecake-like consistency.

Marathon’s hidden Key lime treasure can be found at Keys Fisheries, an outdoor counter-service restaurant connected to a world-class fish and seafood exporter. The fish is fresh off the boat and the pie is the perfect blend of sweet and tart deliciousness.

Through reading and ready to click on another website? Then take your Key lime pie to go -- from Keys Fisheries in Marathon.

Through reading and ready to click on another website? Then take your Key lime pie to go -- from Keys Fisheries in Marathon.

Want to savor Key lime pie in tropical luxury? Then head for the Dining Room at Little Palm Island off the Lower Keys. Little Palm’s offering is a decadent cashew-crusted Key lime pie topped with a whipped cream fruit coulis.

Key West features many restaurants and emporiums that claim to serve the best or most authentic Key lime pie. However, meringue lovers’ one-stop shop is the funky Blue Heaven Restaurant in historic Bahama Village. The meringue on Blue Heaven’s pie stands several inches tall — and it’s almost as good to look at as it is to eat.

Comments

Jimmy Buffett — Florida Keys Wedding Singer?????

Carol Shaughnessy | March 2011

Just as Ernest Hemingway developed his “Papa” persona while living in Key West, internationally recognized singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett drew on the influence of his island home to create the “Margaritaville mystique” that has flavored his music for decades.

Who knew Jimmy Buffett sang at weddings? Here, he belts out a song during a close friend's wedding reception in the Lower Keys. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau).

Who knew Jimmy Buffett sang at weddings? Here, he belts out a song during a close friend's wedding reception in the Lower Keys. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

During his Key West years, Jimmy studied the island’s characters, cheerfully loony atmosphere and laid-back lifestyle — and memorialized them in songs such as his anthem, “Margaritaville,” and “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”

His tunes tell the stories of larger-than-life Key Westers like the late “gentleman smuggler” Phil Clark and the late bar owner/mayor Captain Tony Tarracino. Many of his most famous lyrics feature Key West locales like Fausto’s Food Palace (owned by another former Key West mayor, Jimmy Weekley), the Blue Heaven restaurant where free-range chickens entertain diners in the outdoor courtyard, and the legendary Chart Room Bar.

In fact, before he gained lasting fame and pioneered the musical genre now called “tropical rock,” Jimmy occasionally sang and played guitar at the Chart Room — and at Captain Tony’s, and at the late lamented Full Moon Saloon where 1970s Keys outlaws and visiting celebrities shared drinks and stories.

In 1985, Jimmy debuted his first Margaritaville Store in Key West — and what began as a welcoming yet ramshackle enterprise on the waterfront grew into an empire. The original Margaritaville is now located beside his Margaritaville Café on Key West’s historic Duval Street.

jimmy's early albums -- like "White Sport Coat" here -- reflect his passion for his Key West home.

Jimmy's early albums -- like "White Sport Coat" here -- reflect his passion for his Key West home.

Given Jimmy’s strong connection to Key West and the Keys, it’s fitting that — just seven weeks after his newsmaking fall off a stage during a show in Australia — his first post-fall performance was a surprise Keys mini-concert to celebrate the wedding of two good friends.

Jimmy walked barefooted onto a small stage at the private home of local dentist Fred Troxel, who a few hours earlier had exchanged vows with Key Wester Rita Brown (also known as the Keys’ film commissioner).

Delighting the 300 reception guests, he belted out Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” For his finale, he sang his own “Margaritaville,” changing some of the lyrics to cater to the occasion.

Jimmy told the crowd that it was the first time he’d performed for any group since the fall that put him in the hospital briefly and caused him to cancel a New Zealand performance. However, he showed no ill effects from the five-foot tumble.

Jimmy performs a rollicking set for his Parrot Head fans during one of their annual conventions in Key West. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Jimmy performs a rollicking set for his Parrot Head fans during one of their annual conventions in Key West. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

That’s fabulous news for his millions of “Parrot Head” fans, named for the offbeat headgear they wear at his concerts. Emulating their beloved “pirate laureate,” they regard Key West as their spiritual home port — flocking to visit the Margaritaville Store and Café, and even making pilgrimages to the small unmarked waterfront warehouse that houses Jimmy’s Shrimp Boat Sound recording studio.

Each year, the Parrot Heads hold their annual convention on the island Jimmy described in his early classic, “I Have Found Me a Home.” No doubt many of them, too, feel the Keys magic that caused their hero to write about pedaling his old red bike to “the bars and the beaches of my town” … and inspired his simple but heartfelt line, ‘You can have the rest of everything I own / ’cause I have found me a home.”

Comments

Pigeon Key: Tiny Island, Big History

Carol Shaughnessy | March 2011

It covers only five acres of land, and seemingly houses little more than a sleepy cluster of buildings and vegetation. But when it comes to Pigeon Key, appearances are deceiving.

Tiny Pigeon Key lies beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge -- but despite its small size, it played a huge role in Keys history.

Tiny Pigeon Key lies beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge -- but despite its small size, it played a huge role in Keys history.

Surrounded by turquoise water beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon, the tiny island looms large in the history of the Florida Keys.

When visionary Henry Flagler conceived and built the Over-Sea Railroad in the early 1900s — forever changing the face of the Keys by connecting the formerly isolated islands to each other and mainland Florida — the biggest challenge was building a bridge in the Middle Keys across nearly seven miles of open water.

During its construction, tiny Pigeon Key made an indelible mark on history. The island was a base camp for workers building the Seven Mile Bridge, the centerpiece of the railroad known as the eighth wonder of the world.

From 1908 to 1912, more than 400 workers lived in the railroad village on Pigeon Key — and despite its small size, it had a commissary and one-room school. Even after the landmark bridge was completed, maintenance crews continued living on the island.

Easily glimpsed from the contemporary Seven Mile Bridge, Pigeon Key houses a museum showcasing the "railroad that went to sea." (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Easily glimpsed from the contemporary Seven Mile Bridge, Pigeon Key houses a museum showcasing the "railroad that went to sea." (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Tragically, a 1935 hurricane ended the railroad’s reign. But that wasn’t the end of Pigeon Key’s importance. A state highway soon replaced the track, and the tiny island became headquarters to the Florida Road and Toll Bridge District.

Today the original Seven Mile Bridge no longer carries traffic, and drivers travel a newer span that was completed in 1982. The old bridge still stretches alongside it, empty and massive, with Pigeon Key beneath.

Pigeon Key is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a true American treasure — but, even so, it’s far too often overlooked by vacationers driving through the Keys.

Do not even THINK about making that mistake. Instead, spend a few hours exploring this spot whose history transports you back in time … and whose geography means there’s nothing on earth quite like it.

To reach the remote little island, you can hop a ferry from Knight’s Key in Marathon or stroll along part of the Old Seven Mile Bridge — a journey that literally feels like walking over water, with a soundtrack composed of the cries of circling sea birds and the hypnotic wash of waves.

Pigeon Key's restored historic structures and tranquil atmosphere offer visitors a glimpse of the Overseas Railway era. (Photo courtesy of the Pigeon Key Foundation)

Pigeon Key's restored historic structures and tranquil atmosphere offer visitors a taste of an earlier era. (Photo courtesy of the Pigeon Key Foundation)

Once you get to Pigeon Key, there’s plenty to see. Many of the old railroad buildings are still standing, overseen by the not-for-profit Pigeon Key Foundation.

One of the original 1909 buildings houses a museum dedicated to the railway’s builders, with exhibits including maps, historic photos, models and a picture postcard collection of the railroad. In this spot, where work crews shared the pressure of unrelenting effort, you can really grasp the breathtaking (and nearly impossible) scope of Flagler’s project.

In fact, you can spend the entire day on the island — exploring the fully restored turn-of-the-century buildings, soaking up subtropical sun and vistas of open blue water, snorkeling along the tidal shoreline, and absorbing the atmosphere of an earlier era.

If you’re visiting the Florida Keys, don’t (and that means DON’T) miss the chance to discover the little island that played such a big role in Keys history. It’s more than unique — it’s flat-out unforgettable.

Comments (1)

Win the Key West Art Car!

Carol Shaughnessy | March 2011

In some locales, people’s choice of car provides clues to their actual or aspired-for income and social status (and, in more than a few cases, the size of their egos!).

Bruce Neff's art car features more than $30,000 of original Keys-themed artwork -- and a lucky winner will drive away with it after an April 17 raffle.

Bruce Neff's art car features more than $30,000 of original Keys-themed artwork -- and a lucky winner will drive away in it after an April 17 raffle.

That’s not usually true in Key West, where the preferred method of travel is likely to be a zippy scooter or fat-tired “conch cruiser” bike (sometimes with a flop-eared dog riding in the basket) instead of a status-symbol car.

However, there’s one Key West car that’s coveted by residents, visitors and practically everyone who spots it cruising the narrow, palm-lined island streets and lanes.

That’s because it’s more than just an automobile — it’s an art-o-mobile.

The unique four-wheeled art gallery was the brainchild of Bruce Neff, a passionate Key West historian whose primary project is developing an online archive and interactive tour of the island city’s most notable historic sites.

The art car is adorned with iconic images from Keys history, like this depiction of Key West's renowned Southernmost House by impressionist William Welch.

The art car is adorned with iconic "postage stamp" Keys images, like this depiction of Key West's Southernmost House by impressionist William Welch.

What does an art car have to do with Key West history?

Actually, quite a lot.

Bruce, an innovative and out-of-the-box thinker (after all, he’s a longtime Key Wester!), persuaded 18 local and visiting artists to paint “postage stamp” images — each one depicting an aspect of the Keys’ heritage or environment — all over a 2005 Nissan Sentra.

Art, history (and automotive!) enthusiasts can vie to win the gallery on wheels by making $25 donations to Bruce’s Key West Historic Marker project. Each donation “buys” one raffle ticket — and the winner will be chosen April 17 at an artist reception (fittingly held on the grounds of Key West’s historic Southernmost House).

Meantime, the quirky art car can be spotted at events all over the island, eliciting smiles, questions and widespread interest.

World-renowned marine life artist and Keys resident Wyland painted a sea turtle on the vehicle's hood.

World-renowned marine life artist and Keys resident Wyland painted a sea turtle on the art car's hood.

It’s definitely something to see. The value of the artwork alone is estimated at more than $30,000 — and that’s no surprise, since it includes original pieces by masters including world-famous marine life artist Wyland, who painted a classic sea turtle on the vehicle’s hood during a recent show at his Key West galleries.

The other images are equally representative of the Keys’ environment and history. For example, there’s Fran Decker’s series of three paintings saluting the Oversea Railway that connected the Keys to the “real world” in the early 1900s. Impressionist William Welch chose to depict Key West’s famed (and lavishly turreted) Southernmost House, while Pam Hobbs painted a rendition of the historic Key West Lighthouse.

Karen Beauprie saluted Key West’s onetime sponge harvesting industry with an image of men hard at work in the sponge market, and David Harrison Wright featured the Schooner Western Union sailing majestically toward a palm-fringed island.

The Keys' colorful flora is represented by Janis Childs' vibrant image.

The Keys' colorful flora is represented by Janis Childs' vibrant image.

Janis Childs was inspired to recreate the lush flowers blooming throughout the Keys; Sally Binard captured the region’s living coral reef in a scene featuring two indigenous yellowtail snappers. There’s even an icon for cat lovers: Sherry Sweet Tewell’s engaging feline waving a friendly paw.

But those are only some of the images adorning the vibrant vehicle. From its hood to its back fender, the art car is a traveling microcosm of the Keys’ colorful atmosphere and experience.

If you’re a friend of the enticing island chain, and want to help support a worthy heritage project, consider investing in a raffle ticket for Bruce Neff’s unique car. You don’t have to attend the April 17 drawing to win — and you just might find yourself the proud owner of the one-of-a-kind Key West art-o-mobile.

Comments