KEY WEST, Florida Keys — According to fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes, “The game’s afoot.” Thousands of costumed revelers are to prove that the game-playing is indeed “afoot” in Key West Friday, Oct. 26, during the Masquerade March that begins at the local cemetery.
The pedestrian procession is a highlight of the island’s 10-day annual Fantasy Fest, a lavish pre-Halloween masking and costuming festival scheduled Oct. 19-28. The 2018 festival is themed “Oh … The Games We Play!” and celebrates games ranging from Scrabble to immersive role-playing adventures.
Famed as “the locals’ parade,” the march typically draws high-spirited revelers wearing everything from elaborate masks and costumes to offbeat creations inspired by the festival theme. During 2018’s extravaganza, marchers might be costumed as “Dating Game” dropouts, Super Mario brothers, characters from Clue or even sinister Sims.
Starting at 5:30 p.m. at the picturesque Key West Cemetery’s Frances Street entrance, participants are to promenade along Fleming Street, stopping for libations at bed-and-breakfast inns along the way. Spectators line the streets of the island’s historic district, applauding and sometimes joining in, before the procession reaches its end near the Fantasy Fest Street Fair on mile-long Duval Street.
Standouts in last year’s event included a troupe costumed as dancing orange dinosaurs, two white-wigged men portraying wedges of wedding cake, a quartet of fiercely battling bumper cars and a flock of oversized pink flamingos.
The colorful march is a prelude to the annual festival highlight, the Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade featuring dozens of glittering motorized floats, costumed marching groups and lively island bands. Scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 27, the parade is to proceed down Key West’s Whitehead and Duval streets in front of as many as 60,000 fantasy fans.
The masquerade march is free to enter and watch.