Key West Art & Historical Society joins Mel Fisher’s Treasures team this year in presenting Mel Fisher Days, a celebration of the rum-and-coke drinking, gold-chain-adorned Keys character remembered as “the world’s greatest treasure hunter” and a benefit for Wesley House Family Services, a not-for-profit organization whose programs provide crucial support to child welfare and family preservation throughout the Florida Keys.
Slated for Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 16, this year’s festival features a treasure-trove of events ranging from the educational to the adventurous, including a kick-off party at Schooner Wharf Bar, Mel Fisher’s Treasures conservation lab tours, tours on board a 90’ MFT search-and-recovery vessel, live and silent auctions, presentation of the annual Mel Fisher Lifetime Achievement Award, raffles, and the Saturday night “Party Like a Local” free block party and concert hosted by the Society. Festival highlights include a ‘cupcake contest’ with a chance to win an authentic treasure coin recovered from the 1622 Fleet Atocha shipwreck, a live auction and 50/50 raffle, book signings, live music, and the first-ever “Mel Fisher Days T-Shirt Lottery,” where a lucky winner will take home a true “motherlode”— a treasure chest filled with $2,500 in silver dollars.
Mel Fishers Treasures and Key West Art & Historical Society reside in massive, catty-cornered red brick buildings on Front Street—one that houses rare historic shipwreck treasures and artifacts and the team who search for and recover them, the other, the award-winning Custom House Museum, a former 19th century clearing-house for wrecker’s cargoes that now preserves and presents the history, art and culture of the Florida Keys.
“Though our organizations are quite different in our mission, we are close neighbors with extensive local maritime histories and a shared desire to serve and support our community,” commented Michael Gieda, Society Executive Director. “We are proud to support them in their effort to raise awareness and proceeds for the children and families of the Wesley House Family Services.”
In addition to the all-ages-welcome block party that launches at 6pm on Saturday with live music, food, libations, prizes, and a ‘mother-lode’-sized silent auction spread out across the spacious Custom House Museum veranda, the Society presents treasure coin expert Carol Tedesco from 5-6pm in the Helmerich Learning Center on the third floor of the Custom House Museum. Tedesco, whose in-depth knowledge of historic shipwreck-recovered, Spanish Colonial coins is recognized world-wide, will offer a captivating presentation on 1622 Fleet history, coins, and artifacts entitled “Lost Galleon Treasures.”
Entire festival proceeds benefit Wesley House Family Services, a nearly century-old organization whose role and purpose has continuously evolved based on the needs of the community. Originally conceived as a settlement program for Key West’s Cuban community in the 1920’s, by the mid 1970’s its central focus was providing child and infant day care for working families. Today, Wesley House is a 501 (c) 3, not-for-profit whose mission encompasses multiple aspects of child welfare and family support, including full case management, recruitment, training, and support of foster and adoptive parents; services for families in crisis to promote safety and stability; an independent living skills program for teens, and the Inez Martin Child Development Center, which provides a creative curriculum-based childcare environment for children aged 2 to 5, as well as a free nutritional meal program and back pack program.
Advance registration for Friday’s lab tours is recommended; maximum eight guests per tour. $12 advance tickets at MelFisherDays.com; $15 at the door if any spaces are still available. Advance registration for Saturday’s “Lost Galleon Treasures” presentation is also recommended. $5 advance tickets at kwahs.org; $10 at the door. For a full festival schedule visit MelFisherDays.com, for more info on Tedesco’s treasure talk, visit KWAHS.ORG/Learn.