Lighting Up Land and Sea in Key West

Lighting Up Land and Sea in Key West

The holiday season always rushes by, and it seems like the Thanksgiving leftovers are barely finished off before winter is here. But while the weather up north is frightful, the Key West climate’s delightful, and since we will never have any snow, put on your shorts and watch our Christmas lights glow.

Getting Lit for the Holidays

Our Christmases may never be white in the Florida Keys, but holiday season is certainly bright down here. Subtropical weather brings real warmth to the season, and the absence of any fear of ascending ladders in snow boots, battling icy eaves, and trying to thaw frozen fingers seems to inspire extravagant decoration of anything and everything from homes, to docks, boats, bikes, and more.

Celebrating in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt along the streets and waterfronts, on the beaches, and afloat offshore is a holiday tradition down here in America’s Caribbean Paradise, and we are off to an extra-festive start already this year. December kicked off with plenty of lights, color, glitter, and general merry-making when our annual Holiday Parade drew thousands of spectators to line Truman Avenue and Duval Street on the evening of Saturday, December 2.

The candy was flying from floats to send kids scrambling for treats as everybody from Santa and Mrs. Claus to the Grinch and our Fantasy Fest royal court appeared among the more than 75 parade entries while the Key West High School Marching Conchs rocked the route.

Ahoy Ho Ho There Mateys

Speaking of well-lit, as we have previously reported in these pages, lighted boat parades and their attendant pre- and after-parties are a favorite holiday tradition in the Keys. Skippers and crews go all-out to deck the rigging and rig the decking in dazzling lights and fantastically creative décor to mark the season and compete for the honor of best-decorated vessel plus cash prizes and gift packages.

From Key Largo to Key West, folks line up along harbor fronts, grab ocean-view barstools, crowd the piers and beaches, and run offshore aboard excursion boats or their own craft to join the fun and cheer on their favorites. This year, the second weekend of December featured a particularly packed schedule.

Up north on Duck Key, 19 boats gathered at Hawks Cay Marina to embark on a well-lit Christmas cruise. The next evening, Boot Key saw 23 boats line up for a parade that claims the title of largest in the Middle Keys. On Sunday the 10th, Key Colony Beach was the scene of a canal cruise competition between more than a dozen boats vying for $2,400 in cash prizes and gift certificates.

Key West—Boat Parade Central

Here in Key West, the weekend started with a nice warm up at the 7th Annual Stock Island Boat Parade on Friday evening. Sponsored by The Rotary Club of Key West and The Perry Hotel & Marina, viewing took place from the lawn of the Perry Hotel right in the heart of the State Harbor on Stock Island.

The event featured a full evening of fun, with games, activities, treats, and a visit from Santa for the children. When the judging was done, Izzy Rose, a Grand Banks 49-footer helmed by Captain Bud Fernandez took home the honors and $1000 cash for Best Boat Overall.

On Saturday the 9th, a large crowd turned out for the main event of the Florida Keys boat parade calendar, and this year’s 32nd Annual Schooner Wharf Bar/Absolut Vodka Lighted Boat Parade was a grand spectacle that did not disappoint in the least. Escorted by an amazing U.S. Coast Guard entry that eventually took 3rd place, more than 30 Christmas-decorated craft joined their lights with those of the Harbor Walk to dazzle the crowds.

U.S. Coast Guard Key West –
Photo Credit: Carol Tedesco, handout one time use, ASSOCIATED PRESS

The line-up passed into the Bight in front of the judge’s stand, then did a looping cruise along the waterfront district at the top of Duval Street. First-place winner was Captain John Fijol’s Junkyard Dog. Captain Fernandez and Izzy Rose showed up again to take second place this time around, and win a nice gift package that should make for a very merry Christmas for that wonderfully creative captain and crew.

Winter Blows in to Key West

Winter must be here for real now as one of this year’s unique special events, the first-ever appearance of the Key West Waterfront Winter Wonderland in Truman Waterfront Park, fell victim to a weather delay that pushed a planned Friday, Dec 15 Grand Opening to Sunday the 17th. The US National Weather Service Key West office hoisted double red pennants Thursday afternoon, calling a Gale Warning into effect as stormy weather with scattered heavy rain and wind squalls gusting to 35 mph moved over the Lower Keys.

True to form for a December Key West-style “blizzard warning”, island temperatures stayed in the upper 70s throughout as tourists happily shot photos and got soaked at the wave-splashed Southernmost Point marker. Have no fear though— along with games, rides, attractions, food, music, light displays, artisan market and more, the 40×60 foot Winter Wonderland ice skating rink will be ready for action on Sunday because it is made of tropical weather-proof synthetic material that is every bit as slippery as real ice.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

As always, on December 31 Key Westers will drop the most eclectic selection of New Year’s items of any island city. Conch shells, high-heels, lime wedges, a pirate wench, and who knows what else is going down on what might arguably be the second-most swinging occasion in Key West after Fantasy Fest. And if that is not enough, you can welcome in the New Year by swinging at dropped balls yourself. Just mark your calendar for The Rotary Club of Key West Golf Tournament on January 21, 2024.

One thing that is not likely to drop as the New Year comes in is the value and just plain attraction of Key West real estate. In 2023, we saw the trend of rising property values continue, albeit at a moderated pace compared to the nose-bleed acceleration of appreciation seen in previous years.

The tight supply of homes combines with sustained demand from both domestic and international buyers to drive a consistently competitive market here. Limited land area and lots of waterfront mean Key West homes will always command a premium that reflects the allure of living in a tropical paradise surrounded by warm blue waters.

Maybe you will be living within walking distance of all the holiday festivities by this time next year? How about entering your own boat in the 2024 parade? Don’t let another year slip away—come on down and check out the possibilities with your local connection, the team at Bascom Grooms Real Estate.

For another year, wishing you and all members of our One Human Family a merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and peaceful, prosperous New Year.

Bascom Grooms Real Estate—1110 Truman Avenue, Key West Florida—(305) 295-7511—