KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Revelers can expect a “monopoly” on high-energy fun Friday, Oct. 19, through Sunday, Oct. 28, as Key West’s annual Fantasy Fest puts a playful spin on masking and costuming festivities. The 2018 festival is themed “Oh … The Games We Play!” and features 10 days of masquerade balls, elaborate costume contests, parties and fanciful frolics, all climaxing in a grand parade set for Saturday, Oct. 27.
Event organizers encourage participants to design costumes and parade floats around the festival theme — embracing everything from old-style board games to online role-playing challenges. They might draw inspiration from suspects in Clue, riverboat gamblers, Bingo bimbos or quest-focused avatars from the “World of Warcraft” universe.
The glamorous gaming action is to begin with a Royal Coronation Ball Friday, Oct. 19, where a king and queen are crowned to rule over the festivities. Also that weekend, the family-friendly Goombay street party takes place in historic Bahama Village, saluting Key West’s Caribbean roots.
In addition, Key West Burlesque is to present “Madame DuJour’s Magical Game Show and Burlesque Experience” from Friday, Oct. 19, through Friday, Oct. 26. The tantalizing parody blends performance, pageantry and prizes for audience members.
Subsequent festival highlights include Wednesday’s wacky Pet Masquerade, where creatures ranging from dogs and cats to “angry birds” compete for costume prizes along with their human companions.
Thursday night, contestants at the 36th annual Headdress Ball engage in a not-so-trivial pursuit: displaying huge and elaborate masks and headgear while vying for “over the top” prizes.
Throughout the festival, attendees can immerse themselves in fantasy roles at themed parties, costume competitions and other gatherings. Antics on the overflowing schedule include the Ringmaster’s Pool Party, glow galas, toga and tutu affairs, the Venetian Masquerade Ball, a retro beach bash and a Zombie Bike Ride reminiscent of the “Resident Evil” video game.
Key West’s renowned Duval Street becomes an amusement arcade Friday as vendors of costumes, arts and crafts, food and libations sell their wares in the mile-long Fantasy Fest Street Fair. In addition, the Masquerade March draws masked and costumed merrymakers for an exuberant walking parade.
The role-playing revelry is to reach its climax Saturday, Oct. 27, during the Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade through Key West’s historic downtown. Tens of thousands of spectators typically converge to cheer the parade’s exotic marching groups, island-style bands, costumed characters and lavishly decorated motorized floats.
Event information: fantasyfest.com
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY