The Key West Botanical Garden grounds were transformed into a fairyland for the summer solstice on June 21st, and artists from all over Key West converged to celebrate and entertain. The event felt magical from the moment I walked in. Many people, contributors and guests, were dressed up in fantasy costumes, with painted faces and fabulous headgear.
This is the 8th year this event has been held and people knew there was a contest for “best dressed” and really got into the spirit of the night. There was a face painting and headdress booth right inside the door so I got my face painted and a flower headdress with beautiful ribbons hanging down so I’d fit in with the scene. As always in Key West, dogs were welcomed and some also came in costume. One thing I thought was particularly cool was there were a number of dogs available for adoption that were being walked through the event with coats saying adopt me. I thought this was a great way for people to see animals who needed a home and hopefully a few went home with new families to love them.
There were three major venues set up throughout the park. One venue had great musicians playing. There were more than 20 groups or individuals that played and sang non stop from 5 until 11 PM. It was great to stroll into the area, listen to a few songs, move on and then come back and hear a totally different sound. Many of the early groups were off to play in downtown Key West later in the evening and I got a good overview of the wonderful local music that is available here.
The second venue was an outdoor stage area where there were hula hoop demonstrations, belly dancing (both a performance and participatory dancing), Salsa dancing, poetry reading, sword dancing and an amazing fire eating demonstration. All this was backed by a fantastic video show once it was dark which added to the fun and mystery of the dancers as the colors flowed across their bodies and their shadows danced behind them.
The last major venue was a small theatre area where snippets of Shakespeare were performed, individuals played music, more poetry was read and a youth dance troupe performed. Interspersed between these venues were food trucks, fortune telling, sculptures, a dream board where you could write your dream in chalk, and a fantastic mural being created.
Michael showed up early to take ‘behind the scenes’ pictures of the set up and then photographed both the performers and the guests all night long. The fact that so many guests were dressed up, in addition to the artists who were performing, gave the evening a fun, fantastical feeling everywhere you went. See all Michael’s personal favorite pictures from the night. (look for the slide show button on the top right to have them open and scroll.) There were so many outstanding people and activities and I’ve only shown a fraction here. It’s especially fun going to an event Where Michael is the photographer because he gets to meet and know the event people and as a result we get an insider’s view of what is happening, meet new people we wouldn’t ordinarily get to know and often find out interesting things or other events that are happening in the area.
All the artists including the face painters were donating their talents to benefit the Botanical Gardens. The gardens are not supported by Key West or the state for funding so they look to admissions, sponsors, donations and events to support the facility.
The gardens are representative of local Florida, Cuban and Caribbean plants and so it’s not as “showy” as a garden planted with the goal of looking vibrant at all times. It does provide an essential stopping place for migratory birds and butterflies and educates the public about native plants. Over 200 bird species and 37 butterfly species have been sighted. The Botanical Garden has a series of self guided tours including the “old garden” with a number of endangered species, a butterfly garden, a tropical hardwood hammock, pond and lake tour and a Cuban palm tour. If you are coming to Key West or want to know more about the Tropical Rainforest and Botanical Garden visit their website or send for their terrific garden guide.
This was truly a magical night and if you are in Key West or close by for the next summer solstice definitely stop by for a night to remember.