Fantasy Fest kicks off Friday in Key West, Florida with a full slate of events for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than two years ago.
The annual 10-day party runs until October 30.
“Due to the COVID pandemic, this will be the first full Fantasy Fest since 2019,” said Fantasy Fest Board President Steve Robbins. “So I know our guests and staff are excited to get back to the real Fantasy Fest.”
Dozens of themed events are lined up for the festival, including a night parade with floats and richly costumed marching bands on October 29. Participants are encouraged to draw costume ideas from the festival’s theme, “Cult Classics and Cartoon Mayhem,” featuring characters inspired by beloved cartoons and television or film productions with cult followings.
Events begin Friday with the Royal Coronation Ball to crown the festival’s king and queen, following a campaign that awards royalties to the two individuals who raise the most money for AH Monroe, a Keys-based organization that provides care, housing and education for HIV patients.
Mayor Teri Johnston discusses the city’s mask mandate and the cancellation of Fantasy Fest.
Key West’s Caribbean roots are celebrated this weekend with the Goombay Street Party in historic Bahama Village. Thousands of locals, dressed as zombies, will take part in Sunday’s Zombie Bike Ride.
Other highlights include the Pet Masquerade on Wednesday; a Thursday night party at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a watering hole frequented by Ernest Hemingway; Masquerade March next Friday; and a lavish head ball.
Started in 1979 as a way to boost tourism revenue during a typically slow decline, Fantasy Fest generates about $40 million in economic impact, according to Keys tourism officials.
“A full-fledged Fantasy Fest also supports many non-profit organizations,” Robbins said. “But it’s certainly a boost to our hospitality industry.”