May 26, 2023 -Tiny yellow Key limes have flavored Florida Keys cuisine since the 1800s. Contemporary lime lovers can celebrate the home-grown fruit and the dessert it inspired — the island chain’s signature Key lime pie — from June 30 to July 4, during the 10th annual Key Lime Festival.
In much of the United States, July 4 brings picnics, patriotic celebrations, and fireworks. But in Key West, holiday traditions also include the World Famous Key Lime Pie Eating Championship, the festival’s nationally renowned highlight.
Some two dozen competitors are to step into the “limelight” at 1:30 p.m. on Independence Day at the Southernmost Beach Cafe, located on the Atlantic Ocean at 1405 Duval St. After donning safety goggles, each must attempt to devour an entire 9-inch pie, topped with mounds of whipped cream, in the fastest time — without using their hands.
As well as the consumption contest, attendees can enjoy an on-site vendor village from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Key lime pie, believed to have originated in Key West in the late 1800s, was designated Florida’s official pie in 2006 by the state legislature. Its main ingredients are condensed milk, egg yolks and Key lime juice, with the filling typically nestled in a graham cracker crust and topped with whipped cream or meringue.
The festival’s official kickoff is set for 5 p.m. Friday, June 30, when attendees can sip champagne with co-founder David Sloan, author of “The Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook” and “Key Lime Pie: An Intriguing History of Key West’s Native Dessert,” and acquire signed copies of the volumes.
The reception is to take place on the veranda of the Curry Mansion, the pie’s historic birthplace, located at 511 Caroline St.
“Limeys” can test their talent for devising protective gravity-defying pie containers in the offbeat Key Lime Pie Drop. Set for Sunday, July 2, the contest tasks each competitor with dropping a miniature pie from atop the Key West Lighthouse at 938 Whitehead St. — without damaging the creamy confection.
Among festival attractions are daily Key Lime Bike Tours, classes in crafting mini pies, a Key lime scavenger hunt, tasting strolls to savor cocktails and pies made with the luscious limes, a master class on growing Key lime trees complete with tree giveaways, a chef-guided tasting experience featuring Key lime hors d’oeuvres, a sampling of locally distilled Key lime rum, lime-inspired dinners and much more flavorful fun.
Events conclude Tuesday, July 4, with a traditional patriotic party, waterfront fireworks display presented by the Rotary Club of Key West, and ticketed VIP Fireworks Dinner at Key West’s Indigenous Park, 1801 White St.