Hurricane Irma slammed the Florida Keys on Sept. 10, damaging parts of the Middle Keys and leveling many sections of the Lower Keys, but that’s not enough to kill Monroe County’s biggest party.
The annual Fantasy Fest in Key West kicks off Oct. 20 in Key West with creative costuming and a blend of colorful new events and longtime favorites for revelers.
Themed “Time Travel Unravels” and running through Oct. 29, the 2017 festival features several dozen masquerade balls, costume contests, parties and showcases for quirky creativity, all climaxing in the Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade down Duval Street the night of Oct. 28. Event organizers encourage participants to “time-travel” to any past or future era to find inspiration for their costumes and float designs. The most imaginative are to be rewarded with prizes.
New to the festival schedule is the Oct. 22 evening Zombie Bike Ride, a family-friendly procession of the “undead” in tattered zombie garb, pedaling past Key West’s Atlantic Ocean beaches to prowl historic Duval Street. It starts at the Fort East Martello at 3510 S. Roosevelt Blvd. at 2 p.m. with body painting and snacks until 6 p.m. Then the ride heads to Old Town
Oct. 25 brings the always-popular Pet Masquerade, a costume party for pets. You can enter your pet in four categories, with each entry costing $25 and the money going to the Lower Keys Friends of Animals. Registration begins at 4 p.m., the show starts at 5:30 at the Casa Marina Resort, 1500 Reynolds St. It’s free to watch.
Oct. 26, it’s the Headdress Ball, to be held at the new Key West amphitheater at the Truman Waterfront at the end of Southard Street. More than 25 contestants will parade their headdress creations on the stage to vie for the $3,000 first prize. Show starts at 8 p.m. (gates open at 6:30).
The following day, Duval becomes a carnival of creativity as vendors offer colorful costumes, arts and crafts, food and libations in the mile-long Fantasy Fest Street Fair. Hours are noon to 10 p.m. The same day is the Masquerade March, a walking parade that begins at the local cemetery. It typically features thousands of revelers dressed in masks and costumes that range from brilliant to bizarre.
The biggest even of Fantasy Fest is the nighttime Oct. 28 Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade through Key West’s historic downtown. Tens of thousands of spectators converge to cheer the parade’s elaborately costumed marching groups, dancers in bright feathered costumes and dazzling motorized floats.
There are numerous other Fantasy Fest events throughout the week hosted by bars, restaurants and other venues. For the complete schedule, go to fantasyfest.com.