West is probably the best-known small town
on the planet. Though tiny enough it is
rumored to fit into New York's Central
Park, Key West has managed through its
rich history, its remote location and its
ravishing natural beauty to earn a notation
in every national and international map.
West sits like a jewel in the middle of the
sea, just off the coast of America. Its air
quality is second to no other city. The average
annual temperature of 77 degrees rarely varies
more than 10 degrees in either direction,
with a record low of 41 degrees and a record
high of 97 degrees. It has never seen frost
or snow. Perennially sunny, the island average
only 39 inches of rain per year.
Key West is, in fact, the westernmost of
the Florida Keys, its name was corrupted
from the Spanish Cayo Hueso or "Island of
Bones," dubbed such when Spanish explorers
set foot on a landscape littered with the
human bones of Calusa Indians and unfortunate
seafarers. Of late, it has also been nicknamed "The
Conch Republic" and "Margaritaville," (as
much a state of mind as it is a comment on
one of the daily rituals).
no up-town or down-town in Key West, no dress
codes even for the finest of restaurants.
Tolerance is the rule and differences are
to be celebrated. Even daily life in Key
West includes a certain off-beat sense of
celebration. Each day's setting sun is celebrated
and sometimes even applauded at Mallory Square
, while artisans, musicians, and street performers
pack the city pier with visitors as the famed
and often glorious Key West sunsets shimmer
over the Gulf of Mexico.
West is a city which celebrates itself, its
history, its diversity and its various reputations
in many ways. Festivals and parties punctuate
the tourist season. The social calendar,
fishing tournaments and art festivals, literary
seminars and world premiere plays, house
and garden tours, international power boat
and yacht races, and a lighted boat parade
goes on 365 days a year. Most notable perhaps
is Fantasy Fest, Key West's answer to Mardi
Gras. Visitors from around the world descent
on a ten-day event in October that culminates
with a parade through Old Town that draws
an estimated 50,000 celebrants.
West is for many the greatest city in America.
Its population is a patchwork quilt of the
most culturally diverse elements imaginable,
stitched together with the sturdy threads
of acceptance and the desire to celebrate