(FLORIDA KEYS) — There’s always something happening in the Florida Keys & Key West, from festivals focusing on the area’s colorful history, artistic culture and quirky ambiance to events that celebrate the Keys’ underwater paradise.
Jan. 3: Orange Bowl Swimming Classic. Key Largo. Some of the best college swimmers in the country, and perhaps future Olympians, compete each year at Jacobs Aquatic Center, mile marker (MM) 99.6 oceanside, in a free-to-attend event that is part of the celebration surrounding the annual Orange Bowl college football game in Miami.
Jan. 5-8 (workshops Jan. 8-12): 30th Annual Key West Literary Seminar. Key West. The seminar’s 2012 topic is “Yet Another World: Literature of the Future,” offering workshops, panel discussions and receptions that feature some of today’s most innovative writers. Visit www.kwls.org.
Jan. 6-7: Ragnar Relay Florida Keys Race. This 199-mile race takes runners throughout the Florida Keys to the southernmost island in the continental U.S. on a route beginning in Miami and ending in Key West. Visit www.ragnarrelay.com/race/floridakeys.
Jan. TBA: Fight Night in the Keys. Key West. The Key West boxing tradition, whose fans included legendary author Ernest Hemingway, is celebrated with action-packed, world-class professional boxing scheduled at Mallory Square overlooking Key West Harbor.
Jan. 13-15: NAMSA North American Championship & Tradewinds Midwinter OpenCat Nationals. Islamorada. Daily catamaran races featuring vessels in several classes kick off the annual Harken Buoy Series. Visit www.catsailor.com.
Jan. 14: Florida Keys Seafood Festival. Key West. This family-oriented feast with fresh local Keys seafood, drinks, marine-related crafts, youth activities and live music is held at Bayview Park from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visit http://monroe.ifas.ufl.edu/environment/env_seafood_fest.shtml.
Jan. 14: No Name Race. Big Pine & the Lower Keys. Join a 5k Walk & Run that benefits the Monroe County Domestic Abuse Shelter. The race begins at 8 a.m., covers 3.1 miles and is based at the Old Wooden Bridge Guest Cottages & Marina on Big Pine Key. Registration is $25 in advance, $30 on race day and $10 for children under age 15. Visit www.domesticabuseshelter.org.
Jan. 14-23: Flagler Centennial Celebration. Throughout the Florida Keys. Events cap a yearlong celebration honoring the 100th anniversary of the completion of Henry Flagler’s Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad and the inaugural train’s journey through the Keys to Key West Jan. 22, 1912. Highlights include a 1900s-era costume ball, one-man performance by a Flagler re-enactor, themed parade in Key West, re-enactment at the Lower Keys’ Bahia Honda State Park, an immersion into railroad-era activities and family fun at Marathon’s historic Pigeon Key and more. Visit www.FlaglerKeys100.com for information and a complete schedule.
Jan. 15-20: Quantum Key West 2012. Key West. Nearly 300 racing yachts compete for class championships in this international midwinter sailboat regatta celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2012. Visit www.premiere-racing.com or call 781-639-9545.
Jan. 20-21: 52nd Annual Historic House Tours. Key West. Presented by the Old Island Restoration Foundation, the house and garden tours offer a rare opportunity to see inside some of Key West’s magnificent, charming and tropical residences. Additional tours are scheduled Feb.17-18 and March 16-17. Visit www.oirf.org or call 305-294-9501.
Jan. 21-22: Big Pine Key Nautical Flea Market. Big Pine & the Lower Keys. All things nautical are to be displayed and sold at the eighth annual event. Other attractions include live music, food and beverages. The seafaring sale takes place on the grounds of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, MM 31 oceanside. Visit www.lowerkeyschamber.com or call 305-872-2411.
Jan. 22: Key West Half Marathon. Key West. Recognized by Runners World magazine as one of the 10 great half-marathons of the winter season, the run follows a 13.1-mile course through Old Town Key West past historic landmarks and the island’s scenic waterfront. Call 305-296-7182 or visit www.halfmarathons.net.
Jan. 26-29: Key West Food and Wine Festival. Key West. Top chefs and restaurateurs showcase their culinary creativity and the Keys’ indigenous cuisine in a tasty schedule of events for food lovers. Attendees also can participate in food-related adventures during the savory celebration. Visit www.keywestfoodandwinefestival.com or call 800-474-4319.
Jan. 26-29: Third Annual Key West Dulcimer Festival. Key West. Attendees can take workshops in hammered and mountain dulcimer, guitar, steel drums, pennywhistle, banjo, autoharp and other instruments from a stellar performing and instructing staff. The four-day festival is to be held at Hurricane Hole Marina, MM 4.5 oceanside. Visit www.keywestdulcimerfest.com.
Jan. 28-29: 27th Annual Key West Craft Show. Key West. Juried artisans and crafters display their talents at a popular show on lower Whitehead Street in historic Old Town Key West. Visit www.keywestartcenter.com/craft.html.
Jan. 28-29: 3rd Annual Key Largo Stone Crab & Seafood Festival. Key Largo. Full of fresh conch, local stone crabs and seafood, entertainment and fun for the entire family, the festival includes cooking demonstrations, food eating and costume contests, kids’ play area, magic, music, arts and crafts vendors and of course, key lime pie. Visit www.keylargoseafoodfestival.com.
Jan. 29: Key West Master Chefs Classic. Key West. Local restaurants vie for top honors in three categories: appetizers, entrees and desserts. Attendees sample the culinary treats while judges pick the winners. Visit www.masterchefsclassic.com/.
While this calendar lists selected highlights for 2012, a comprehensive schedule of events throughout the Keys can be found at www.fla-keys.com/calendarofevents/.