Attending The Mardi Gras Of The Conch Republic
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When it comes to costumes and Halloween, few places can match the craziness of Key West.
Every year, the city hosts a spectacular multi-day event known as Fantasy Fest, a week of zany events that consists of more than 40 masquerade contests, galas, parties, promenades and other events.
The 2016 event is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 31 (Halloween is Monday the 31st).. The theme this year is “Political Voodoo & Ballot Box Barbarians.”
That pretty much says it all right there folks! Who knows what costumes you’ll see with this title! Where else could this be, but Key West!?
And while the entire week is full of fun – it’s Key West, after all – the unquestioned highlight is the annual parade down Duval Street.
The flamboyant parade – the Mardi Gras of Key West – will take place on Saturday, Oct. 29. It typically includes more than 50 decorated floats, many towering two stories high and featuring music, light shows and oversized moving parts.
Accompanying them are Caribbean bands, marching groups and street dancers garbed in extravagant sequined and feathered costumes. It’s free and some 60,000 people attend.
Building up to this is the Fantasy Fest Street Fair where you can buy masks, costumes and food and Key West “libations.”
At 7 p.m. the parade begins at the intersection of Southard and Whitehead streets. Floats, bands and other parade participants are to travel down Whitehead toward the Gulf of Mexico, turn onto Front Street and then proceed the mile down Duval to the Atlantic Ocean. Past years’ parades have drawn more than 60,000 spectators.
As an example of what to expect, past parades have included a float with a massive sculpted witch’s head that rose more than 30 feet into the air, an oversized barbershop quartet dressed to emulate the film character “Beetlejuice” and a castle full of disco-dancing Draculas and their victims. Creativity, Key West style.
The events begin with a Royal Coronation Ball Friday, Oct. 21, to crown the festival’s King and Queen. In addition, Key West’s Caribbean roots are to be celebrated with Friday and Saturday’s Goombay street party in historic Bahama Village.
Subsequent festival highlights include Tuesday’s “Bizarro Key West” Headdress Ball, where stalwart heroes and villainous vixens can earn prizes for the best masks, cowls and other headgear designed to disguise.
Then there’s Wednesday’s Pet Masquerade and Parade with animal antics from costumed dogs, cats, exotic birds and more on an oceanfront stage and Thursday’s Pretenders in Paradise costume competition under the stars. Themed “Zombie Nation Vacation,” it features people in costumes who compete with performances in lights and music.
Additional festival information is available at: www.fantasyfest.com, or call (305) 296-1817.