The offbeat Conch Republic Drag Race is to be staged in the 700 block of Duval Street, the appropriately nicknamed “main drag” at the heart of the island’s LGBTQ entertainment district.
Presented by the Petronia St. Neighborhood Association and headquartered outside the Bourbon St. Pub, the zany race is to begin with a test run at 2 p.m. followed by qualifying heats and finals.
The traditional auto-racing atmosphere is to be spoofed by organizers dressed as “pit crew” with checkered flags while a local DJ blares the roar of revving engines.
The event’s main attraction, however, is the female impersonators competing in pancake makeup, extravagant wigs and race-mandated high-heeled footwear. They attempt to dash down the pavement faster than their rivals while trying to avoid wipeouts, twisted heels and other wardrobe malfunctions.
Racers typically must navigate an obstacle course of tires and various other street hazards as spectators cheer for their favorites. The “dragsters” also get a diva-style ride along Duval Street in shopping-cart “hot rods” propelled by local male dancers.
Race registration is free for all contestants willing to don the required towering heels and eccentric drag attire.
The drag challenge is part of Key West's 40th annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration. Scheduled April 15-24, the festival commemorates the Florida Keys’ symbolic 1982 secession from the United States and formation of the independent republic.
Among its highlights are a ceremony commemorating the secession, a lighthearted sea battle featuring tall ships, the so-called “World’s Longest Parade” that proceeds along Duval Street from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and a “Conch Crawl & Pup Stroll” benefiting the Florida Keys SPCA.
Drag race information: New Orleans House Guest House at 305-293-9800
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or gaykeywestfl.com
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