Several dozen masquerade parties, quirky costume contests, live music and theater shows, and themed events are scheduled during the 10-day festival, culminating in a lavish grand parade featuring massive motorized floats and elaborately costumed marching groups.
Participants are encouraged to draw costume ideas from the festival theme, portraying characters inspired by favorite cartoons and television or film productions with a cult following. Influences might include animated offerings like “Family Guy” or Hollywood classics like “Mad Max” or “Pulp Fiction.”
Events begin Friday, Oct. 21, with the “Thanks for the Memories” Royal Coronation Ball to crown the festival king and queen, held at the Truman Waterfront’s Coffee Butler Amphitheater. Key West’s Caribbean roots are celebrated that weekend with Friday and Saturday’s family-friendly Goombay street party in historic Bahama Village.
Subsequent festival highlights include Wednesday’s Pet Masquerade, where costumed dogs, cats, birds and more prance across the stage at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater. Contestants in the engaging antics might dress as Scooby Doo and his cohorts, cartoon feline Garfield, a flock of Angry Birds or even Wallace and Gromit of British film fame.
Thursday brings the lavish Headdress Ball, also to be held at the amphitheater, featuring prizes for the best masks and headdresses. Typically sporting feathers, glitter and glitzy accessories, many entries tower above their wearers’ heads in a fine display of design artistry.
The cartoon chaos takes to the streets Friday, Oct. 28, during the Captain Morgan Masquerade March. A favorite of Florida Keys residents and visitors, the march features vividly costumed participants promenading from Key West’s Frances Street to an after-party at the Green Parrot Bar, 601 Whitehead St.
Other festival standouts include the mini-but-mighty “Smallest Parade in the Universe,” tutu and toga parties, multigenre musical salutes, themed costume contests and the fun-filled Fantasy Market at Truman Waterfront Park.
Saturday night, Oct. 29, tens of thousands of spectators are expected to line Key West’s Whitehead and Duval streets for the spectacular Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade. A procession of large-scale decorated floats, exotic marching groups and fantastically costumed characters, the parade displays the freewheeling creativity that has colored the festival for more than 40 years.
Event information: fantasyfest.com
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
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