Key West’s Fantasy Fest Is Canceled Due To COVID-19

11 hours ago
Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Service

Fantasy Fest, Key West’s annual 10-day celebration of the scantily clad and the silly since 1979, won’t happen this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The theme for 2020 was going to be “Roaring 2020’s and Future Fictions.”

Organizers confirmed the cancellation Thursday on Facebook, ending speculation that the city would possibly host the huge event that pours cash into workers’ hands and company wallets at a time when South Florida is suffering through the COVID-19 crisis.

Matias J. Ocner / Miami Herald

America’s birthday celebration in the Florida Keys this year won’t include any public displays of fireworks.

The last remaining fireworks show set to go off in Monroe County on the Fourth of July was canceled Wednesday by Marathon city leaders in an emergency meeting called to discuss the issue.

Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Bureau

There’s a lot of talk about the new normal, but what does that mean in a place where the old normal had changed so much already?


The Florida Keys officially reopen to tourists Monday.

But in attempt to broadcast this important milestone, the Keys’ tax-funded advertising group has drawn criticism for an electronic billboard about the return of tourism that stole a phrase from Martin Luther King Jr.,’s “I Have a Dream...” speech from 1963, delivered in Washington, D.C.

David Goodhue / Miami Herald/FL Keys News

A Florida Keys nursing home that has become a cluster for novel coronavirus cases did not report the deaths of 13 people at the facility to the state Department of Health, including seven people who were suspected to have possibly died from the disease, according to a report from the state agency that regulates nursing homes.

David Goodhue / Miami Herald/FL Keys News

At least 13 residents of a Florida Keys nursing home are in isolation because they either tested positive for the novel coronavirus or they are awaiting test results.

Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Service

“Welcome Back.”


“Personal Space.”

Those are the names of three new advertising campaigns for the Florida Keys, which plan to reopen to visitors June 1 after instituting a two-month tourist ban that included checkpoints at the top of the island chain meant to keep out day-trippers from the mainland.

Welcome to travel advertising in the age of the novel coronavirus.


New rules for the troubled reefs and turquoise waters that make up the vast marine sanctuary that surrounds the Florida Keys are threatening to spark a Conch-style uprising. 

Tom Hudson

A month after Hurricane Irma filled his mobile home with 17 inches of flood water, Brian Branigan received a permit from Monroe County to replace his home's drywall and flooring. By early December, the drywall had been replaced and new plywood had been laid. He expects to start putting in the linoleum floor this week with the hopes of moving back into the home before the end of the month.

"My home is modest," he said. "It's just a mobile home, but it's home. It's not a house."

Mark Hedden

This story originally aired in December 2009.

Writer Nancy Klingener lives in Key West.  Every year, she looks forward to a parade which marks the arrival of the holiday season.

She says,  “In South Florida, seasons are subtle.  The leaves don’t change color in the fall.  The mud doesn’t sprout grass in the spring.  So you look for different signs.”

Charles Trainor Jr. / Miami Herald

Update: Today's Labor Day, so we're taking some time to look at a vanishing job. We first broadcast this story two years ago when plans for the  24/7 Card Sound Road tollbooth (connecting Miami-Dade and the Keys) to go automated were a couple years away.

Is Key West's Fantasy Fest Too Raunchy?

Oct 22, 2014
Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Fantasy Fest started 35 years ago as a way to bring visitors to Key West during what had been the slowest time of the year. But locals have always been a big part of it -- the 10 days of street fairs and costume parties, and the culminating parade, for which 60,000 crowd the island's downtown.

"I was on a float for, like, 19 straight years," says Key Wester Michael Blades. He and his friends built elaborate parade entries and won the grand prize three times. But they're not entering this year.

Key West Food Trucks Get New Rules Proposal

Oct 16, 2014
Nancy Klingener / WLRN

When two new eateries on wheels opened in Key West this year, the city's code enforcement officers cited them, saying they had not received approval to operate in the historic district known as Old Town.

But a magistrate dismissed those cases, because the city didn't have any rules that govern food trucks.

That could change soon, as a 16-page proposed ordinance gets its first airing this week in front of the city's Planning Commission. The commission will make a recommendation to the city commission, which must approve any new rules before they take effect.

Key West Seeks Site For Homeless Shelter

Oct 9, 2014
Nancy Klingener / WLRN

On a three-by-five-mile island, finding a site for a homeless shelter is no easy feat.

Almost 700 people in the Keys are homeless, according to the most recent count. Key West is the island chain's largest city and has the largest homeless population.

If there is an iconic bird for the Florida Keys, the Key West quail-dove is it. The bird was named, and painted, by John James Audubon during his 1832 visit to the island chain.

"I have taken upon myself to name this species the Key West pigeon, and offer it as a tribute to the generous inhabitants of that island, who favoured me with their friendship," Audubon wrote in his journal.