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Tens of thousands of people flock to Key West each year to ring in the New Year as only the island can. The Key West ‘Red High Heel Drop’ has become an honored tradition for locals and travelers alike ringing in the New Year in Key West. 

Gary Marion, better known by fans and locals as Sushi, the island’s most renowned Drag Queen has been descending from a giant high-heel shoe since 1996 in an over the top, Key West style nod to the stroke of midnight ball drop celebrated in New York City each year. 

Joseph “Joe” Schroeder who opened Bourbon Street Pub 23 years ago, began the tradition of a shoe drop one year following the opening of his now famous Duval Street Bar. 

“It was inspired as a spin-off of ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ meets ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” he said of the now famous Key West institution. Sushi is said to have been apprehensive in the first year when climbing aboard the paper machete prop, but following the success of the first year, Schroeder knew something more substantial would be necessary as the tradition and public demand for the Red High Heel Drop began to take shape. 

Schroeder created the now used fire truck red fiberglass high heel measuring 8 feet long with a staggering 4-foot-high-heel in the second year of the Drag Queen drop and it has been entertaining crowds every year since. 

Schroeder has watched as this one off event he created in 1996 grow each year, crediting Anderson Cooper of CNN of bringing awareness and coverage to the New Year’s Eve celebration and introducing “out of towners” as Schroeder calls them, to this Key West tradition. 

The temperate climate of Key West makes this street fair style event the perfect atmosphere to host this wild, fun and family inclusive New Year’s Eve celebration. 

Duval Street closes to traffic to allow patrons to wonder through the various bars and parties where drinking is allowed on the street. The atmosphere keeps with Key West’s history of inclusion. 

You can find families with kids straddling the streets next to rowdy bachelorettes, leather daddies, drag queens and every other walk of life you can imagine in this inclusive island tradition of celebration. 

Locals recommend getting to Duval Street early to snag your spot before the crowds pour in filling the streets with excited onlookers vying for the perfect spot to watch Sushi as she hosts one of the island’s most cherished social events. The party kicks off early in the evening with a live musical dance and impersonation show performed on a stage in front of Bourbon Street Pub, located in the epicenter of Key West LGBT culture scene at 724 Duval Street. The party continues after midnight with bars along Duval street hosting a series of colorful celebrations and parties. 

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