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Key West’s Fantasy Fest turns 40 and keeps the freak flag flying

It’s time to get out the masks and invest in body paint once again. Key West’s Fantasy Fest is looming.

The 2019 festival is a notable celebration for obvious reasons: Fantasy Fest turns 40 this year, and like anyone who turns 40, it really, really wants to have a good time. IT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD TIME.

Of course Key West generally wants to have a good time and rarely lets anything stand in its way. This intrepid festival refused to cancel itself in 2017, mere weeks after Hurricane Irma struck the islands as a Cat 4 buzzkill. Homes, cars, businesses and boats were broken and shattered. But the parade floats still rolled and the drinks still flowed. Respect.

This year, the party begins on Friday, Oct. 18 and runs through Sunday, Oct. 27. The most popular event is, as always, the Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade, which begins at 7 p.m. Oct. 26, winding down Duval Street and dissolving (usually) into a state of total inebriation.

But there are tons of other events leading up to the parade. SO many. There are dance parties, pajama parties, ’80s parties, pool parties. There are karaoke bashes, galas and bikini contests. There are family friendly events and athletic events (a 5K run).

There are also some seriously kinky parties involving sexy bull riding and/or dungeons that we can’t talk too much about here except to say “Damn” (you’ll find more info here).

Here are some of the more wholesome events on the agenda.

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You can be in the parade or watch the parade at Fantasy Fest.

Bahama Village Goombay Festival

Enjoy island arts and crafts, food and more at Key West’s Bahama Village neighborhood. Note: This is family-friendly and should not involve a lot of half-naked people in body paint. Noon-midnight Oct. 18-19.

Zombie bike ride

Start your day by enjoying a zombie brunch at La Trattoria Oceanside (no worries, you can eat pancakes instead of brains if you must). Then head to Fort East Martello starting at 2 p.m. to mingle with fellow zombies, get your face painted and faux rotting limbs together, and maybe have a snack (still OK if you don’t want to eat brains). At 6 p.m., jump on your bike and join the hordes of costumed undead riding down U.S. 1 to Duval Street for Zombiefest downtown. There are after parties, too. Note: You gotta wear clothes, zombies - there’s a Naughty Bike Ride if you’d prefer not to. Oct. 20. Register at zombiebikeride.com for $5.

Street fair

Chill while you eat, drink and shop while you browse the vendors set up along Duval Street and consider how crazy things are going to get once that parade starts. Oct. 25-26

Masquerade March

Experience Fantasy Fest like a local at this “grownup moving cocktail and dance party” (FF’s words, not ours.) The party starts at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 25. at the Frances Street entrance of the Key West Cemetery. But you can join anywhere along the route. Don’t worry. There are after parties, too,

Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade

This year’s theme is “In Tune But Off Key: Celebrating 40 Years of Fantasy.“ Do what you will with that. We know you’ll come up with something good - or bad, as the case may be. 7 p.m. Oct. 26, Duval Street

Fantasy Fest

When: Oct. 18-Oct. 27

Where: Key West

Full schedule of events: fantasyfest.com

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