“See you at Sunset” has a special meaning down in Key West, Florida. More than a valediction, it’s an invitation to Sunset Celebration, a spontaneous celebration as jugglers, tourists, clowns, fishermen, psychics, island musicians, artists, food vendors, friends, and thousands of tourist gather each night to celebrate the close of another day in Paradise. This art festival takes place nightly at Mallory Square Dock in Key West, Florida.
It begins each night around two hours before sunset as masses of people flock to the water’s edge to experience a multicultural happening and to watch the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico. When the sun finally sinks into the ocean it does so to applause and legend has it that Tennessee Williams initiated the ritual of applauding the sunset at Mallory Square, gin and tonic firmly in hand.
Fun Fact: Mallory Square has a long history as being a center of activity in Key West. Once the chosen anchorage of pirates, it later became the base for anti-pirate campaigns orchestrated by Commodore Porter in the 1800’s. Mallory Square has also been the center of the wrecking industry and the assembling point of American forces for four wars.
It’s said that Sunset Celebration took of in the late 1960’s in the hands of carefree gypsies. There were about 30-40 regulars who would come down to the pier each night and get high on LSD. They claimed they were watching Atlantis arise from the clouds at sunset. Thankfully by the 70’s and 80’s the festival had taken a clean turn, turning into a flea market type celebration, but it was still less than legal as vending on the dock was not allowed. It was when merchants began to complain that the City of Key West stepped on. Thanks to a group of citizens forming a legal entity called the Key West Cultural Preservation Society, Inc. (a not for profit corporation) in 1984 Sunset Celebration was preserved.
Today, Sunset Celebration is an internationally known attraction that supports a cottage industry in Key West. A gathering point for talented artists from around the world. For more information, visit the official Sunset Celebration website at http://www.sunsetcelebration.org/.