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Thursday, December 17, 2009


New Year's Eve partiers unwilling to endure cold-weather festivities, such as the traditional "ball drop" in New York's Times Square, can find exuberant celebrations and far warmer temperatures in the Florida Keys.

In Key West, revelers can choose from three very different – though equally lighthearted – takeoffs on the Times Square gala as midnight approaches Thursday, Dec. 31.

On the island city's renowned Duval Street, thousands of people are expected to ring in the New Year by watching a gigantic conch shell, the symbol of the Florida Keys, descend from its supports to the flat roof of Sloppy Joe's Bar, 201 Duval St. Festivities are emceed by a rooftop host and, as a huge clock counts down the seconds to midnight, the manmade shell begins to descend. Sloppy Joe's live music rounds out the revelry.

A few blocks away at the Bourbon Street Pub/New Orleans House complex, 724 Duval St., renowned female impersonator Sushi is slated to take the celebration's center stage for the 13th consecutive year. Seconds before midnight, a lavishly gowned and coiffed Sushi – riding in a super-sized red high heel that glitters as glowingly as the ball in Times Square – is to be lowered from the balcony of the complex to the accompaniment of cheers and applause from the crowd below. Performances by renowned female impersonators kick off the merrymaking.

In Key West's Historic Seaport, New Year's Eve revelry combines with a salute to the island city's colorful seafaring heritage. Just before midnight, a pirate wench is to begin her descent from the top of the mast of a tall ship, to the accompaniment of cannon blasts and the liftoff of biodegradable balloons. She will complete her earthward journey as the clock strikes and 2010 officially begins. Live music, dancing and festivities at the Schooner Wharf Bar are to round out the seaport gala.

Blackwater Sound in Key Largo is to be the setting for the Upper Keys' leading New Year's Eve fireworks extravaganza. The sparkling sky display is hosted by bayside restaurants Sundowners, Señor Frijoles, Cactus Jack's, Gus' Grille at the Marriott Key Largo Beach Resort and the Caribbean Club, all located around mile markers (MM) 103-104. Tables fill up fast, so partiers are advised to arrive early.

Visitors and residents who want to start the New Year with a focus on fitness can do so beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 1, when the annual 5k Run, Walk and Crawl is to depart from Islamorada's Founders Park, MM 87 bayside.

A day of festivities is to follow, highlighted by a blessing of the fleet at Whale Harbor Bridge, MM 84 oceanside.

For more information about top events in Florida, take a look at the Top Events USA selection of the annual main festivals and events in Florida at http://www.topeventsusa.com/state-events-florida.html

Or, take a look at the official web site for Florida Keys at http://www.fla-keys.com/