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Fantasy Fest returns to Key West after COVID shutdowns

Participants partake in the 2017 Fantasy Fest parade as they make their way down Duval Street in Key West on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.
Miami Herald
Participants partake in the 2017 Fantasy Fest parade as they make their way down Duval Street in Key West on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.

Fantasy Fest is kicking off in Key West, Florida, on Friday with a full slate of events for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started more than two years ago.

The annual 10-day-long party runs through Oct. 30.

“Due to the COVID pandemic, this will be the first full Fantasy Fest since 2019,” Fantasy Fest board chair Steve Robbins said. “So I know our guests and staff are excited about getting back to the real Fantasy Fest.”

Dozens of themed events are set for the festival, including a nighttime parade featuring floats and elaborately costumed marching groups on Oct. 29. Participants are encouraged to draw costume ideas from the festival theme, “Cult Classics & Cartoon Chaos,” portraying characters inspired by favorite cartoons and television or film productions with a cult following.

Events begin Friday with a Royal Coronation Ball to crown the festival king and queen, following a campaign that awards royalty to the two individuals who raise the most money for AH Monroe, a Keys-based organization providing care, housing and education for HIV patients.

Key West’s Caribbean roots are celebrated this weekend with a Goombay street party in historic Bahama Village. Thousands of locals, costumed as zombies, are to participate in Sunday’s Zombie Bike Ride.

Other highlights are Wednesday’s Pet Masquerade; a Thursday night toga party at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a watering hole frequented by Ernest Hemingway; next Friday’s Masquerade March; and a flamboyant Headdress Ball.

Initiated in 1979 as a way to bolster tourism revenues during a typically slow fall, Fantasy Fest accounts for some $40 million in economic impact, according to Keys tourism officials.

“Having a full-fledged Fantasy Fest also supports many not-for-profit organizations,” Robbins said. “But it’s certainly a boost to our hospitality industry.”

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