KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Attendees at Key West’s renowned annual Fantasy Fest can anticipate creative costuming, offbeat artistry and a blend of colorful new events and longtime favorites for masked and costumed revelers.
Themed “Time Travel Unravels” and scheduled Friday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Oct. 29, the 2017 festival features several dozen masquerade balls, costume contests, exotic parties and showcases for quirky creativity, all climaxing in a lavish grand parade.
Event organizers encourage participants to “time-travel” to any past or future era to find inspiration for their costume finery and float designs. The most imaginative are to be rewarded with prizes and enthusiastic acclaim from Fantasy Fest crowds.
The extravaganza begins with the family-friendly Goombay street party in historic Bahama Village, a celebration of Key West’s Caribbean roots set for Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20 and 21. Friday night brings the Royal Coronation Ball, where a king and queen are crowned to preside over the festivities.
New to the festival schedule is Sunday evening’s Zombie Bike Ride, a procession of oddly lively “undead” in tattered zombie garb, pedaling past Key West’s Atlantic Ocean beaches to prowl historic Duval Street.
Subsequent events include Tuesday’s tutu party, a culture crawl, themed soirees for costumed characters and Wednesday’s wacky Pet Masquerade. The “animal antics” feature dressed-up dogs, cats and other domestic species competing for costume prizes alongside their human companions.
Thursday brings another festival newcomer, the Smallest Parade in the Universe, providing a “tiny” foretaste of the glittering Duval Street parade that highlights Fantasy Fest. A miniature procession of artist-made 18-inch floats is to traverse a make-believe Duval, while audiences view the creative constructions both live and via large-screen video.
Thursday’s enticing events also include two traditional favorites: the “over the top” Headdress Ball, to be held at the new Key West Amphitheater at Truman Waterfront Park, and the tantalizing Toga Party at Sloppy Joe’s Bar on Duval Street.
The following day, Duval becomes a carnival of creativity as vendors offer colorful costumes, arts and crafts, food and libations in the mile-long Fantasy Fest Street Fair.
Friday’s festivities also include the Masquerade March, a zany walking parade that begins at the local cemetery. It typically features thousands of revelers dressed in masks and costumes that range from brilliant to bizarre.
The madcap merriment is to culminate Saturday night, Oct. 28, during the Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade through Key West’s historic downtown. Tens of thousands of spectators converge to cheer the parade’s elaborately costumed marching groups, dancers in bright feathered costumes and dazzling motorized floats.