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Can Fantasy Fest, known for nudity, become a 'clean, positive event'? Key West wants to give it a try

A float goes down Duval Street for the Fantasy Fest parade in 2019
Rob O'Neal
Florida Keys News Bureau
The Saturday night Fantasy Fest parade normally draws tens of thousands of people to Duval Street in Key West, like this one in 2019.

Key West is known as a place where almost anything goes. That's especially true at the biggest event of the year, Fantasy Fest, where public nudity is common and raunchy behavior is encouraged at events like the "kinky carnival" that features "interactive BDSM stations, fetish rooms, bondage and more!"

Now the City Commission wants to tone down the raunchiness and turn the 10-day event "into a positive, clean festival enjoyed by both residents and visitors."

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On Tuesday, they authorized the city manager to negotiate a new contract with the festival's organizers, with the aim of eliminating public nudity and establishing "family hours" at set times during events when inappropriate behavior would be prohibited.

In recent years, the city has set up designated "fantasy zones" where people have been allowed to go topless — if they're wearing body paint. Joe Carter is a local body painter who spoke at the meeting.

"Granted, there is drunkenness and debauchery. I know that people want to make it more family-friendly but there is a designated party zone," Carter said. "Those people don't have to go down there if they don't want to."

Commissioners were originally considering a one-year contract but agreed to let the city manager negotiate for longer. Mayor Teri Johnston says the organizers will need that time.

"With the change in direction that we are looking for in this event and how far out in advance you have to advertise and certainly get out that message to the people that you expect to attend that event, I think it's going to be a considerable effort," she said.

This year's Fantasy Fest is scheduled to start Oct. 21. The theme is Cult Classics and Cartoon Chaos.

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