What to Do in Key West — Where Do We Begin???

Steve Smith | January 2012

Often I’m asked what there is to do in Key West. That’s a loaded question, because our little island has so many options that it’s difficult to describe — and impossible to do everything.

Ladies in early 1900s attire participate in a recent Key West parade to honor the centennial anniversary of the completion of Henry Flagler's Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Ladies in early 1900s attire participate in a recent Key West parade to honor the centennial anniversary of the completion of Henry Flagler's Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

For example, visitors to Key West in recent weeks could have experienced a drag queen lowered to the street in a six-foot red stiletto on New Year’s Eve, a seafood festival, the 30th annual Key West Literary Seminar, two parades down Duval Street that included everything from bicycles and antique cars to marching bands and Boy Scouts, a premiere yacht race, the centennial celebration of Henry Flagler’s Over-Sea Railroad, and the Ragnar Relay that brought hundreds of colorful runners for a 199-mile relay race.

Our theatres are constantly producing exceptional shows, from those penned by local authors to Broadway hits. In February, the Waterfront Playhouse is offering “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” and the Red Barn Theatre is staging the Broadway smash hit “God of Carnage.”

One of my favorite February events is Valentine’s Day at the Curry Mansion Inn — a gala now in its 29th year. Caroline Street outside the inn will be closed as several hundred locals and visitors join the festivities to raise funds for the Wesley House, a local organization serving Keys families and children.

Would you let this costumed character preside over your bingo game? Scores of people do each Sunday in Key West.

Would you let this costumed character preside over your bingo game? Scores of people do each Sunday in Key West.

The event includes the largest silent auction in Key West, food from great local restaurants, fabulous entertainment including our own Howard Livingston and Honey Mouth performing in two areas, free-flowing libations and colorfully dressed attendees.

Last year’s gala raised more than $60,000 for services provided to the children of the Keys. It takes lots of volunteer hours to produce events of this type, but we seem to have an endless supply of hours to share with our community. (If you want to attend, tickets are available at KeysTix.)

A dazzling star of this island is Mitch Jones. Qmitch, as he calls himself on his Facebook page, is a product of Rocky Mount, N.C.  Raised as a “good ole Southern boy” in a quiet Baptist household, he never missed a Sunday church event.

Mitch was a charter member of the American Airlines Executive Platinum desk, where he catered to the needs of the airline’s top 2 percent VIP customers. Luckily for us, he took an early leave and brought his personality, talent, and generosity to the island on the unique date of 06/06/06.

Key West's own Sushi recently found herself a "centerfold" in the pages of Reader's Digest.

Key West's own Sushi recently found herself a "centerfold" in the pages of Reader's Digest.

In addition to raising funds for many local charities, Mitch took the helm of 801’s Sunday Bingo after Key West’s beloved RV Beaumont left us. Each Sunday, a full house of raucous faithful locals and visitors is greeted by Mitch in a one-of-a-kind outfit. FYI, in addition to the funds bingo raises for charity, Mitch will auction his outfits to benefit the charity.

Stop by some Sunday (before 5 p.m. to insure a space to perch), buy a few bingo cards, and buckle your seatbelt for the bingo your granny never got to experience. But even if you’re not in Key West, you can catch Mitch’s Sunday Bingo live online at World Famous Drag Queen Bingo — or check out a rerun!

On a final note, surprises often come in small packages. This week I was treated to Reader’s Digest Magazine’s “Best of 2011 Rollicking Roundup.”  Spread over two pages was Key West’s own favorite drag queen Sushi on New Year’s Eve, perched in the red stiletto overlooking thousands on Duval Street in front of Bourbon St. Pub. What a treat to see her featured in this global publication!

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