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September 2008
Meetings South

We’ve Got the Keys

For its small stature, Key West is not short on group activities. Just ask Nadene Grossman, owner of 5-year-old Key West DMC We’ve Got the Keys.

“Key West is the recipient of a lot of business that might have gone overseas, such as the Caribbean,” Grossman says. Key West has its own island attractions. “Groups have got to get on the water, go to the reef, see beautiful historic homes and properties. Even if you’re at a big resort, the whole of Key West becomes your destination.”

Grossman works with companies like Fury Water Adventures to arrange excursions. Fury’s Ultimate Adventure sails seven miles out to the only living coral reef in North America on a 65-foot catamaran for an hour of snorkeling. Following is a sail from the Atlantic side of Key West to the Gulf of Mexico for an afternoon of jet skiing, parasailing and kayaking.

“The trip is great for team building,” Grossman says. Other team-building options offered by We’ve Got the Keys include sandcastle building competitions. “We give them bits and pieces to build a catapult. The first one done that destroys the other teams’ sandcastles are the winners.”

Voluntourism opportunities include a build a bike challenge, painting a mural in a children’s playground or a community center with some direction from local artists, and hooking up with other organizations, like Habitat for Humanity.

Tapping into the island’s history also opens a number of doors. Grossman says the company can organize themed events at historic homes, such as a Cuban theme night at Hemingway’s home. “It’s the wow factor, to say I had a mojito on Hemingway’s front lawn.”

Aside from Cuban cocktails, the theme night can include a Cuban menu, Latin band, salsa dance instruction and a visit from a local cigar company for demonstrations of hand-rolling cigars.

“I customize everything,” Grossman says. “Even if I do a history tour of Key West with stops at museums, I add in breaks for lemonade with Key lime or chocolate Key lime pie on a stick.”

The DMC can arrange behind-the-scenes events with local authors, artists and chefs. Cooking classes can be combined with lessons in mixology, learning how to create concoctions like strawberry-basil mojitos from local ingredients. Attendees can take painting classes with local artists, as well.

But the main attraction is the setting.

“We do a lot on the water,” Grossman says. “We can host a welcome reception on a catamaran with cocktails, margaritas, mojitos and live music.”

For local flavor, the DMC can organize live performances by junkanoos, a ragtag group of musicians who play drums and blow whistles, wear masks and costumes and escort groups to dinner.

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