Key West’s annual Fantasy Fest masking and costuming celebration began Friday, kicking off 10 days of masquerade parties, elaborate costume contests, street fairs and festivities — all climaxing in a spectacular grand parade.
Conceived more than 35 years ago, Fantasy Fest this year demonstrates Florida Keys residents’ resilience and fortitude after Hurricane Irma’s Sept. 10 passage through the island chain.
“I think Key West and the Florida Keys need to take a little break and enjoy a little zany, quirky Key West celebration,” said festival director Nadene Grossman Orr. “I know that Fantasy Fest is going to lift their spirits and raise the community not only in mind and spirit, but financially.”
As the Keys’ first major special event since Irma, the festival is expected to provide a significant boon to the tourism-based economy whose businesses employ more than half the local workforce.
“We’re all looking forward to getting back to work and bringing in some tourist dollars and celebrating with our visitors,” said Grossman Orr.
Fantasy Fest 2017 is themed “Time Travel Unravels,” with participants encouraged to take inspiration for costumes and parade floats from any past or future era.
Upcoming events include the Zombie Bike Ride, a costume contest for pets and their people, the exotic Headdress Ball and a high-spirited masquerade march starting at the Key West Cemetery.
Saturday night, Oct. 28, the Fantasy Fest Parade is to travel through Key West’s historic downtown. The procession typically draws tens of thousands of spectators to applaud its costumed marching groups, street dancers, bands and lavishly decorated motorized floats.
Keys tourism officials advise hotel rooms are available, but suggest that attendees make reservations before traveling to Fantasy Fest.