UNDERWATER MUSICLOOE KEY, Florida Keys — Divers and snorkelers might encounter “Alice in Waterland,” the “Cheshire Catfish” and their fictional friends beneath the sea during the 26th annual Underwater Music Festival, set for Saturday, July 10, in the Lower Florida Keys.

The quirky underwater concert takes place at Looe Key Reef, an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary approximately six miles south of Big Pine Key. Each year, the subsea songfest draws as many as 600 divers and snorkelers to explore the colorful diversity of marine life that characterizes continental America’s only living coral barrier reef.

The 2010 festival offers an offbeat salute to the classic children’s tale “Alice in Wonderland” and the 2010 film it inspired, with underwater appearances by divers costumed as Alice, the “Mad Haddock,” “Mock Sea Turtle,” “March Herring” and other take-offs on the story’s memorable characters.

Set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the marine musical event is staged by Keys radio station US 1 Radio 104.1 FM. The music is broadcast underwater via Lubell Laboratory speakers suspended beneath boats positioned at the reef.

The concert’s playlist typically ranges from humpback whale recordings to sea songs such as the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” and the theme from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

Participants might even catch the diving denizens of “Waterland” tooting their own horns — pretending to play underwater musical instruments like a trom-bonefish and sax-eel-phone sculpted by Florida Keys artist August Powers.

While many participating “afishionados” are drawn by the undersea fun, the concert also promotes the serious cause of preserving the Florida Keys’ unique coral reef ecosystem. The musical broadcast incorporates diver awareness announcements, prepared by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary officials, offering tips on how people can enjoy the ocean while minimizing their impact on the reef and marine environment.

Divers and snorkelers eager to immerse themselves in the 2010 Underwater Music Festival can reserve space aboard boats run by Lower Keys dive operators, or launch their own boats from public ramps and marinas throughout the area.

For information about dive charters and accommodations in the Lower Florida Keys, call the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce at 800-872-3722 or 305-872-2411, or visit www.fla-keys.com or www.lowerkeyschamber.com.

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