Divers and snorkelers can explore part of the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef Saturday, July 7, while rocking to a unique sub-sea concert that promotes reef protection.
The Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival takes place each year at Looe Key Reef, an area of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary about 6 miles south of Big Pine Key. The sanctuary protects the waters surrounding the entire Keys island chain.
Staged by Keys radio station US1 104.1 FM, the sea-focused songfest is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The music is designed to enhance the underwater experience for divers discovering the Keys’ diverse realm of tropical fish, coral formations and other marine life.
“The Underwater Music Festival is a way to celebrate the coral reef, and we celebrate it by looking for a balance between protection of the reef and public enjoyment,” said festival co-founder Bill Becker. “The more people realize what’s down there and enjoy it, the more they’re likely to protect it.”
Music broadcast by the radio station is piped underwater through Lubell Labs speakers suspended beneath boats above the reef. Participants can sway to an oceanic playlist that typically includes melodies like the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” and the themes from “The Little Mermaid” and “Gilligan’s Island.”
Some divers wear costumes, portraying everything from mermaids to rock stars, and pretend to play underwater musical instruments such as a “baratuba” sculpted by Florida Keys artist August Powers.
The primary purpose of the annual festival is to encourage preservation of the Keys’ rich coral reef ecosystem. The broadcast incorporates diver-awareness announcements emphasizing ways to enjoy the reef while minimizing environmental impacts.
A pre-event party is set for 6 p.m. Friday, July 6, at the Tiki Bar at Looe Key Reef Resort, 27340 Overseas Highway. Attractions include appetizers, libations and a chance to learn about the Keys’ treasured reef. For costs and reservations, call 305-872-2411.
Divers and snorkelers who want to participate in the festival can reserve space on boats run by Lower Keys dive operators or launch their own boats from public ramps and marinas in the area.
Event information: lowerkeyschamber.com/festival.
Lower Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com/lowerkeys or 305-872-2411