Key West

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

In the last few months, Key West has banned the sale of chemical sunscreens and the use of styrofoam and some pesticides on city property. Now the city is taking on single-use plastics.

ANDY NEWMAN / FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU via Miami Herald

A white-bearded retired banker beat out 141 contestants in the Ernest Hemingway Look-Alike Contest in Key West at the annual Hemingway Days festival.

Joe Maxey, 68, of Cedar Hill, Tennessee, in his eighth appearance at the contest, said his persistence paid off on Saturday night at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, where the three-round competition was judged by a panel of former winners.

“I love his writing,” Maxey said, after his victory. “He was a great writer and just to be part of this history of Hemingway is just incredible.”

Jed Dodds

For months, a truck that serves only as a mobile billboard has been driving around downtown Key West. Its days on the island may be numbered.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Key West is taking on the island's abundant wild iguana population. They're everywhere, including city-owned property, from the old landfill known as Mount Trashmore to the historic cemetery in the center of the island. 

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

For the last several weeks, Chicago-based composer and percussionist Ben Wahlund has been a resident artist at The Studios of Key West, absorbing the island and its people, both the tourists and the service workers who provide the only-in-Key West experiences for them.

Wahlund's observations and encounters have been transformed into a dozen musical compositions that he's calling "Mile Marker Zero."

WLRN's Nancy Klingener talked to Wahlund about his work and got a preview of some of the pieces he'll be performing on Saturday, July 13, at The Studios of Key West.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

About 25 Democrats in Key West gathered at Shanna Key, an Irish pub, to watch the debate.

Bert Sise is chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Monroe County.

She was watching to see the candidates address a couple issues in particular.

"Climate change for sure. For sure. Because all of our lives in South Florida are going to be impacted by what happens in the next couple of decades," she said.

While the spotlight was on the candidates Wednesday evening, Sise says local party members have an important role to play in the election and in national politics.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The recent U.S. ban on cruise ships traveling to Cuba has had a ripple effect on South Florida's cruise industry. Yet not all of it is bad news.

In fact, it's bringing more attention to the southernmost port of call for these big ships in the continental U.S.

Keys Energy Services

People in South Florida have lots of reasons to resent iguanas. They pillage the garden. They poop in the pool. And in the Keys, they sometimes knock out the power.

Now Keys Energy Services, the utility that provides power from the Seven Mile Bridge to Key West, is taking steps to prevent that.

Photos courtesy Arlo Haskell. Graphic by WLRN's Sundial.

Key West, a longtime home for poets from Elizabeth Bishop to Richard Wilbur, has selected Florida Keys native Arlo Haskell as the Conch Republic’s new poet laureate.

“We certainly have more than our fair share of poets, living and dead right here on this little rock,” he said in his remarks at a city commission meeting Tuesday. “As poet laureate, I’m going to try to build a genuine Conch Republic of Letters.”

Haskell will serve in the honorary role for two years. Though he has no official duties, he said he wants to make the island city’s poetry “a little easier to see.”

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Key West built a firehouse in 1908. A few years later, someone planted a mamey tree in the yard alongside it. Now that tree is now getting some special attention.

Alex Vega spent three years early in his career at Key West Firehouse No. 3, the site of that tree. He says the big mamey tree in the yard sometimes produced 30 of the football-shaped fruit and sometimes 300. But it was always shared around.

"Every watch got a bagful — two for you, one for your mother. They would give them out to their family and stuff," he said.

As Key West's housing market caters more and more to the second home set, there's a new effort to preserve some of the island's multicultural history.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The Cuban ambassador to the United States is visiting Key West and he's doing a lot of the things that tourists do: lunch at a waterfront seafood restaurant, a trolley ride, waiting in line to have his photo taken at the Southernmost Point.

But José Ramón Cabañas is also scheduled to meet with city commissioners at several events on the island.

"There's a large Cuban-American population in Key West. We know we have many friends. And that we will have the opportunity to meet local officials, business people and our Cuban community here," Cabañas said Tuesday afternoon.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

In recent weeks, a middle school art class at Horace O'Bryant School in Key West has been working on a big project. It's a float for one of Key West's many parades. In this parade, every entry is a "kinetic sculpture," which means it must have moving parts — and be powered by people, not pulled by trucks.

This particular float is about the different faces of Key West: the version that tourists see and the reality that these kids know.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The Key West city charter says voters have to approve any deal for the city to buy real estate. And Key West voters have a decision to make.

Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr

A Senate panel on Tuesday approved a bill that would threaten local governments with hefty fines if they prohibit the sale of certain sunscreens, though lawmakers dropped an initial part of the bill that would have prevented local officials from banning plastic straws.

The bill targets sunscreens in an attempt to keep Key West from enforcing an ordinance that would ban the sale and use of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, a chemical that a study says harms coral reefs. That ordinance is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

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