newlogo     KeyWestWTcall2                                                                                     


Welcome to our blog

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Ghosts, ghouls and other eerie entrants can flaunt Halloween finery while running through the streets of Key West during the annual Halloween Half Marathon & 5k. The racing challenge is slated to begin at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 18, in the island city known for its "haunting" atmosphere.

Participants are encouraged to wear costumes, whether scary or outrageous, as they travel a flat, fast course through Key West's picturesque Old Town and scenic waterfront areas.

Runners in the half marathon chart a 13.1-mile course beginning at the Schooner Wharf Bar, 202 William St. in the Historic Seaport. They are to proceed around the island, including its Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean shores, before ending where they began.

Runners and walkers in the 5k, which starts at 6:40 a.m. at the Schooner Wharf, travel through Key West's historic Old Town before returning to the bar property for the finish.

Participants can pick up their race packets at the Schooner Wharf from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, or 5-6:15 a.m. Sunday.

Awards are to be given to the first- through third-place male and female overall winners as well as the top three male and female finishers in multiple age groups. In addition, all entrants who complete the half marathon or 5k are to receive commemorative Halloween medals.

The registration fee for the half marathon is $90 per individual runner or $85 per person for teams of four or more. The 5k registration fee is $40 per individual or $35 per person for teams of four or more.

Event information and registration:

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

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube


After traveling to countless cities around the United States from the Las Vegas strip to the Big Apple, and worldwide from San Francisco to Spain, female impersonator Randy Roberts is happy to call the island of Key West home.

Born in Virginia, Roberts always demonstrated a passion for performing and being in front of audiences. He began his performance career on lunch and dinner cruises in New England. When his talent drew wider recognition, he started traveling with several different shows.

After visiting Key West professionally multiple times, he found that something kept bringing him back to the island.

"In 1998 I was asked to perform at a birthday party in Key West, and that same weekend was asked to perform for the weekend at a club," said Roberts. "Then the club was asking me back every weekend.

"That's just how it goes here — before I knew it, this was home," he said.

By August 1998, Roberts was performing at the famous La Te Da on Duval Street. The boutique hotel was renowned for its lodgings and restaurant, as well as its eclectic cabaret.

For more than 15 years, Roberts has excited and entertained audiences several times a week, impersonating a wide range of characters in "Randy Roberts Live!"

The show is a live multimedia tribute to some of the world's most beloved female performers, all depicted by the versatile Roberts. Audience favorites include Cher and Bette Midler.

However, nothing compares to his own self-created character of Randy Roberts.

"I like to think of it as a cross between Ann-Margret, Liza Minnelli and Joan Rivers," Roberts quipped.

His talents not only have brought him to stages around the country, but also inside the homes of millions of Americans when he recently appeared on the television series "America's Got Talent," a variety-format competition for performers from around the U.S.

For his first audition, Roberts sang "That's Life" accompanied by a 15-piece, all-female big band. Though the audition wasn't aired on television, the judges apparently loved his performance and he made it to the next round.

During the "judge cuts" round, which was aired before millions of viewers, Roberts sang "The Lady is a Tramp." Unfortunately, the rendition didn't earn him advancement to the next round.

Despite the hard work and the long hours filming, Roberts admitted he was extremely happy with the show's results.

"I'm so grateful for the national exposure I got from 'America's Got Talent,'" he said. "The social media coverage was incredible; I'm still seeing results from it."

As well as staging "Randy Roberts Live!" regularly, the energetic entertainer also spends time performing around Key West for special events and at local theaters including the island's acclaimed Tennessee Williams Theatre.

When Roberts is not entertaining Key West visitors and resident fans, he spends his time doing what many other Keys locals do — biking around town, getting out on the water as much as possible and supporting local theater.

"This is home for me," Roberts said. "My friends are here, my work is here, everything's here.

"I'm very lucky that I have such a great following and support of a great community to do what I love ... and to top it all off, it's Key West!"


KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Fans of Key West's glitzy, glamorous drag performers can get a "backstage" look at the talented entertainers and their inspirations, finery, lives and role in the island's culture at "What a Drag!" — an intriguing new exhibit at the Custom House Museum, 281 Front St.

Debuting Sept. 18, the exhibition focuses on the drag queens that light up local cabaret stages as well as the men who create and portray the flamboyant female characters.

Attendees can gain insights into the larger-than-life personas through costumes, shoes, wigs and accessories loaned for the display by some of Key West's leading drag queens. They also can glimpse their glamour rituals, learn about their place in the island's entertainment scene and find out how audiences react to their unique style and shows.

Highlights are to include a glittering 6-foot red high-heel shoe that serves as a "chariot" for famed Key West drag performer Sushi during the island's internationally renowned New Year's Eve "drag queen drop" that has been featured repeatedly on CNN's New Year's Eve program. Thousands of revelers flock to the 700 block of Duval Street each Dec. 31 to applaud a lavish open-air drag show and Sushi's midnight "descent" from a second-story balcony, perched in the shoe, to mark the new year's arrival.

At the exhibit, attendees also can view media documentation and distinctive photographs of Key West's drag icons and explore their overall role in the community. Emphasis is placed on their frequent participation in local philanthropic and charity events, where they donate their time and talents to raise funds for those in need.

Presented by the Key West Art & Historical Society, the exhibit is sponsored in part by the Key West Business Guild, Aqua Bar and Nightclub, Leather Master of Key West, 801 Cabaret, Bourbon St. Pub and Monkey Apple Art.

"What a Drag!" is to remain on display through Dec. 2.

Exhibit information:

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

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube


KEY WEST, Fla. Keys — Runners and walkers of all ages can costume themselves as good or evil characters to compete in the Heroes and Villains 5k Run/Walk set for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26.

Presented by Theme Runs, the fun-filled race is to start and end at the Southernmost Beach Cafe, located at 1405 Duval St. on the Atlantic Ocean. The fast, flat course takes participants along a portion of Key West's famed Duval Street and Atlantic shoreline, past landmarks including the Southernmost Point.

While costumes are not mandatory, organizers encourage racers to dress as their favorite superhero or supervillain and run, walk or fly to the finish line. Prizes will be awarded for the most creative, best group, scariest and funniest costumes.

Chip timing is provided and medals are awarded for male and female overall and masters winners, as well as first- through third-place male and female finishers in age groups ranging from 9 and under to 70 and over. First- through third-place male and female walkers also receive medals.

The race is an official event of the island city's Fantasy Fest costuming and masking festival scheduled Oct. 23 through Nov. 1. The winner in each category receives a "golden ticket" entitling him or her and three cohorts (adults only) to join Theme Runs' entry in the lavish Fantasy Fest parade slated for Halloween night.

Good or evil runners and walkers can register and pick up race packets at the Southernmost Beach Café from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, and 3 to 5:45 p.m. Monday. Enthusiasts also can register online until 30 minutes before the race.

A luau featuring an island-style pig roast is scheduled after the race to recharge participants' "super powers."

The entry fee is $20 per runner or walker until Sept. 23, $25 per person through Oct. 24 and $30 thereafter. Each registered participant receives a goody bag and every person who crosses the finish line receives a special limited-edition puzzle piece medal.

A portion of the proceeds is to benefit youth sports and camp opportunities for children with cancer.

Event information and registration:

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

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube


FLORIDA KEYS, Fla. — Visitors planning a special end-of-summer trip can explore Everglades National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park free on Saturday, Sept. 26, in honor of National Public Lands Day.

Entrance fees at the two unique and beautiful parks will be waived Saturday.

During the fee-free day, staff at both Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Park are to be on hand to answer visitor questions and help them plan a great day in either park.

Everglades National Park, an expanse of approximately 1.5 million acres, is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States and features many rare and endangered species.

Dry Tortugas National Park, located nearly 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, is made up of a cluster of seven small coral and sand islands as well as their surrounding waters. It also includes the massive Civil War-era Fort Jefferson. Ferries and seaplanes offer a great way to access this remote park on a day-long adventure.

For more information about the parks call 305-242-7700 or visit

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube


KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Thousands of masked and costumed partiers are to unleash their intergalactic alter egos during the free-spirited Fantasy Fest Masquerade March, a lively walking parade set for Friday, Oct. 30.

The march through Key West's historic Old Town is a highlight of the island city's Fantasy Fest celebration, a lavish annual costuming and masking festival set for Friday, Oct. 23, through Sunday, Nov. 1. The 2015 festival is themed "All Hallows Intergalactic Freak Show," with participants invited to depict denizens from faraway galaxies, circus sideshows, supernatural sagas and more.

The masquerade march typically attracts spirited bands and merrymakers wearing everything from feathered masks and finery to offbeat costumes inspired by the festival theme.

Free to enter and watch, the 2015 promenade is to start at 5 p.m. at the Key West Cemetery's Frances Street entrance. Participants are to proceed along two routes, stopping for libations at bed-and-breakfast inns along the way.

Spectators typically line the streets of Key West's historic district, applauding and sometimes joining in, before the march reaches its end near the Fantasy Fest Street Fair on mile-long Duval Street.

Past years' participants have included a troupe carrying a 20-foot-long blue and orange Japanese-style dragon, a quartet of spider women with massive tentacles and minimal costumes, an exotic walking "butterfly" whose gauzy spangled wings rose 10 feet in the air and a huge blue-furred "wolf" on stilts.

The madcap march is a prelude to the festival's anticipated highlight, the Oct. 31 Fantasy Fest Parade. Featuring dozens of glittering motorized floats, costumed marching groups and lively island-style bands, the parade is to proceed down Key West's Whitehead and Duval streets in front of some 60,000 fantasy fans.

Event information:

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

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube


KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Fans of beers and ales can sample more than 150 varieties, including unique microbrews, at the sixth annual Key West BrewFest, set for Wednesday through Monday, Sept. 2-7. The schedule features brew-focused dinners, beer and cigar gatherings, a lighthearted "beer run," pool parties, a lavish tasting festival on the beach and other enticements for thirsty attendees.

The event is presented by the Southernmost Beach Resort and the Key West Sunrise Rotary Club of the Conch Republic, and benefits Rotary charitable initiatives.

Beers range from intriguingly named offerings such as Purple Haze lager and Hemp Ale to local favorite Key West Sunset Ale and specialties from the Keys' Florida Keys Brewing Co., Bone Island Brewing and Islamorada Beer Company.

BrewFest starts at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2, with a kick-off party at Key West's new Waterfront Brewery, 201 William St. Later Wednesday attendees can enjoy a beer dinner featuring Chef Wayne Keller's intriguing recipes and/or a tasting of limited-release drafts paired with live music.

Thursday's highlights are to include a "beer run" between the Waterfront Brewery and The Porch, 429 Caroline St., complete with beers at each stop and finisher medals for participating "athletes."

Among Friday's attractions are the Scavenger Hunt Pool Party with Florida Keys Brewing Co. at the Southernmost Beach Resort's Pineapple Pool, 1319 Duval St., and the All AmeriCAN Summer's Eve party featuring leading craft beers in a can at Ocean Key Resort's Sunset Pier, 0 Duval St.

The festival's centerpiece, the BrewFest Signature Tasting Festival with more than 150 beers from around the world, is set for 5-8 p.m. Saturday on Key West's South Beach, located overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at 1405 Duval St. Admission is $35 per person in advance or $40 at the door. Lager lovers also can choose to pay $75 per person for admission to a 3-5 p.m. VIP tasting.

Subsequently, attendees can join the 8 p.m. Second Line March from South Beach down Key West's legendary Duval Street. Led by the New Orleans brass band Waterseed, participants are to dance their way to the Green Parrot Bar, 601 Whitehead St., for an after party.

Among other events are beer brunches and late-night gatherings, the eight-course tapas-style Sam Adams Beer Dinner at the Southernmost Beach Café, 1405 Duval St., "tap takeovers" at local watering holes and a Monday night bingo bash at Key West's landmark Green Parrot, 601 Whitehead St.

Event information and ticketing: or 1-800-354-4455

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

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube


He was desperate when he wrote the poem, and his desperation lingers in the lines even a century and a half later. He had every reason to despair, imprisoned at Fort Jefferson, America's largest and most remote coastal fortress, on a tiny Gulf of Mexico island 68 miles west of Key West.

One night, after another day of forced labor under the blazing sun, Union Army Private Thomas Moran sat in his cell by candlelight and spilled his soul out onto a scrap of paper.

The poem was addressed to Major General Nathaniel Prentiss Banks, commander of the Union's Department of the Gulf. It outlined Private Moran's wartime service and undeserved incarceration, and contained a wrenching plea for freedom.

"I fear not the duty/Nor battle's loud strife/But I care on Tortugas/To pine off my life," the poem read in part. The urgent refrain rings as compellingly today as it did when Moran wrote it: "My voice from Tortugas I ask you to hear."

Private Moran's is hardly the only voice emanating from the Tortugas over the years. Fort Jefferson, begun in 1846 but never finished, housed numerous soldiers and prisoners whose journals and letters provide a vivid picture of life on the barren coral-and-sand islands.

Among them was Sergeant Harrison Herrick of the 110th New York Volunteers, who penned spare and unvarnished diary entries: "Friday May 6th. In the morning while the prisners on the Thames were comming ashore one of the guards, one of the 1st Del Artillery shot himself through the head he was crazy wether fair & plesant."

No voice from Tortugas rings more lastingly than that of Dr. Samuel Mudd, imprisoned after being convicted of conspiracy in Abraham Lincoln's assassination. His only tangible "crime" was setting the broken leg of Lincoln's killer, John Wilkes Booth.

"We are still in irons," Mudd wrote in December 1865, "compelled to wash down six bastions of the Fort daily. However, we are allowed to purchase articles of food, etc."

Later, Mudd was released following a yellow fever epidemic when he treated and saved the lives of stricken soldiers. His captors were so impressed that they petitioned President Andrew Johnson on his behalf.

Since the Dry Tortugas area became a national park in 1992, scores of voices have been heard from its shallows and islands — those of park rangers, historians, divers and naturalists, birdwatchers, journalists and even contemporary novelist Nevada Barr.

A trip to the Tortugas takes visitors into a realm untouched by modern civilization, yet unmatched in historic and natural wonders. Some arrive by seaplane, while others travel by excursion ferry from Key West.

Either way, after vast vistas of blue water, the Dry Tortugas appear low against the horizon. The seven undeveloped islands were named Las Tortugas (The Turtles) by explorer Ponce de Leon in 1513. Awash in pirate legend and wild bird life, they soon became known as "Dry Tortugas" because they had no fresh water.

On Garden Key stands the 19th-century fort. Its construction was begun after American leaders realized that fortifying the Tortugas was essential to control navigation in the Gulf of Mexico. A Union military prison during the Civil War, it was abandoned by the Army just a few years later.

In 1908 the area was designated a wildlife refuge. Named Fort Jefferson National Monument in 1935, it was later proclaimed Dry Tortugas National Park to protect its environmental richness.

Entering Fort Jefferson, centered on an island hardly larger than its exterior walls, is like stepping back 150 years. Visitors can take a complimentary guided tour, stepping inside Mudd's cell to feel the prison chill, peering through the gun casements and observing the panorama of sea and sky from the structure's open third level.

Other attractions include picnicking, swimming and snorkeling in the crystalline waters, lazing on the secluded beach or strolling along the moat surrounding the fort.

In July 2015, 80 of Samuel Mudd's descendents traveled to Fort Jefferson to mark the 150th anniversary of the doctor's July 24, 1865, arrival at the isolated outpost. Led by great-grandson Tom Mudd, they believe he was unaware of Booth's crime when he splinted his leg — and are still trying to prove his innocence.

Wearing colorful key-lime-green "Free Dr. Mudd" T-shirts, they toured the fort and even viewed the cell where their ancestor was imprisoned.

Samuel Mudd left Fort Jefferson after being granted a pardon in 1869, but his conviction was never overturned. His voice, like those of Private Moran and Sergeant Herrick, still echoes from the Tortugas fortress lost in the past.

"My voice from Tortugas I ask you to hear ..."


FLORIDA KEYS — Expectant divers are to take to the Florida Keys reefs hoping to witness a delicate reproductive phenomenon that occurs in the middle of the night when coral polyps release millions of gametes (eggs and sperm) in synchronized mass-spawning rituals. The unique natural event takes place around the late July, August and September full moon cycles.

Typically occurring on or about the August and September full moons, the fantastical underwater exchange of gametes means the continued survival of coral reefs including boulder corals such as brain and star corals as well as the protected branching species, elkhorn and staghorn corals.

This year, because the July full moon falls on July 31, researchers and scientists are anticipating a potentially earlier-than-normal spawning period — perhaps with a release in early August.

Most commonly, the eggs and sperm enter the water in massive quantities. The spectacular white excretion covers a broad geographic area to maximize chances of fertilization and overwhelm nearby predators with more food than they can consume.

When egg and sperm do unite, the newly formed larvae or "planula" ascends to the surface to free-float in the current. Within a matter of days or even weeks, the planula settles to the bottom to grow into a polyp and eventually form colonies.

What triggers the event remains unclear, though scientific observations indicate a strong connection between the coral spawn and seasonal lunar cycles as well as multiple environmental cues such as water temperature and tidal and 24-hour light cycles.

Cultured corals, the result of ongoing wild transplant efforts by Key Largo's Coral Restoration Foundation, also have been documented as spawning each year.

Keys dive operators are expecting to schedule coral spawning night dives around the late July, Aug. 29 and Sept. 28 full moon dates to enable underwater enthusiasts to view the undersea spectacle.

Florida Keys diving information: fla-keys/diving

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

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube


KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Revelers can expect out-of-this-world antics and outrageously freaky fun Friday, Oct. 23, through Sunday, Nov. 1, during Key West's annual Fantasy Fest celebration. Themed "All Hallows Intergalactic Freak Show," the 2015 festival features 10 days of masquerade balls, creative costume contests, parties and eccentric escapades, all climaxing in a grand parade set for Halloween night.

Event organizers encourage participants to design floats and costumes around the festival theme. They might draw inspirations for finery from circus sideshows, pagan pageantry, outer-space epics or haunting Halloween tales. Creativity is rewarded with float and costume prizes as well as acclaim from Fantasy Fest crowds.

The exotic extravaganza is to begin with a Royal Coronation Ball Friday, Oct. 23, where a king and queen are crowned to preside over the festivities. Also that weekend, Key West's Caribbean roots are celebrated with Friday and Saturday's family-friendly Goombay street party in historic Bahama Village.

Friday through Tuesday, Key West Burlesque is to unveil "The Sexy Side of Star Wars," a parody providing a sassy new spin on events in the fictional galaxy far, far away.

Subsequent festival highlights include Wednesday's wacky Pet Masquerade and Parade, an interstellar "freak show" where dynamic dogs, flamboyant felines, bodacious birds and other domestic animals — along with their human companions — compete for costume prizes.

Thursday brings dazzling doings that include the "over the top" Headdress Ball and Sloppy Joe's tantalizing Toga Party, both festival favorites that have been presented annually for more than 30 years.

Throughout Fantasy Fest, themed parties and costume competitions are planned to entice attendees ranging from eccentric earthlings and sensational space creatures to 1920s flappers, partiers in plaid, hippie chicks, pajama gamers, buccaneers and winsome wenches.

The schedule also includes a "Halos & Horns" soiree, a "living art" airbrush competition, glow galas, a rocking 60s-themed pool party and the Southernmost Intergalactic Circus Costume Contest.

Key West's renowned Duval Street becomes the "center of the universe" Friday as vendors of costumes, arts and crafts, food and libations star in the mile-long Fantasy Fest Street Fair. In addition, the Masquerade March draws masked and costumed extraterrestrials and freak-show fans for an exuberant walking parade.

The intergalactic insanity is to culminate Saturday, Oct. 31 — Halloween night — during the Fantasy Fest Parade through Key West's historic downtown. Tens of thousands of spectators converge to cheer the parade's exotic marching groups, Caribbean bands, costumed characters and lavishly decorated motorized floats.

Event information:

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

Social: FacebookTwitterKeysVoices.comYouTube