Fantasy Fest is Key West's wacky, crazier-than-Mardi-Gras celebration marked by zany events, adult-only dress-up parties and an exotic parade. The 10-day event held in October marks Halloween as only Key West can. You either love it or hate it (often for the same reason), because it's a wild, usually drunken, days-long party where just about anything goes.
Fantasy Fest originated in 1978 and was originally marketed to promote Key West during an unusually slow time of the year. The adults-only Halloween celebration has outgrown all expectations, drawing more visitors each year as word of the festival has spread. Now it is one of the busiest and most profitable times of the year for the southernmost U.S. island.
While each year there is a theme — such as 2013's Super Heroes, Villains & Beyond — there is always plenty of creativity when it comes to costumes and body paint, with pirates and other Key West icons popular reoccurring themes alongside of more traditional Halloween costumes. Nudity is a costume at Fantasy Fest, so if that is offensive you may want to stay home; and, while there is no age restrictions (except perhaps in bars), it isn't exactly a wholesome place for children. It is important to note that it is officially illegal to be nude in Key West, whether with or without body paint, but arrests seldom take place.Past Fantasy Fest themes include:
- Circuses and Sideshows
- 2001 - Secrets of the Zodiac Revealed
- 2002 - Mystical Mornings and Monstrous Nights
- 2003 - The Daze of Futures Past
- 2004 - Delirious Dreams and Hilarious Screams
- 2005 - Freaks, Geeks and Goddesses
- 2006 - Key Weird on the Dis-Oriented Express
- 2007 - Gnomes, Toads and White Rabbit Tea Parties
- 2008 - Pirates, Pundits and Political Party Animals
- 2009 - Villains, Vixens and Vampires
- 2010 - Habitat for Insanity
- 2011 - Aquatic Afrolic
- 2012 - A-Conch-Alypse!
Fantasy Fest Events
Many of the Fantasy Fest events are parties, both public and private, are anything but ordinary parties. Some are by reservation only, some require admission or registration to participate, but many are free. Here are the highlights of the most popular Fantasy Fest events:
- Goombay weekend kicks off Fantasy Fest with a Caribbean street party featuring arts and crafts, delicacies from a variety of cultures and countries, and live musical entertainment. You can vote for Key West's royalty — the King and Queen that will reign over Fantasy Fest — at the Royal Coronation Ball.
- The Headdress Ball stands as one of the largest official costume contests and the premier gay event of the 10-day festival featuring entertainment by drag queens, specialty entertainers and some of the finest singers.
- Who can resist adorable dogs and cats (even lizards) in costume at the Pet Masquerade and Parade? It's one of the most beloved and popular events of Fantasy Fest. Special seating is available with a VIP ticket and pet owners anti-up a registration fee for their pets to be included. Monies collected from admission and registration fees go to a worthy cause — the Lower Keys Friends of Animals.
- The Fantasy Fest parade is the highlight of Fantasy Fest and rivals that of New Orleans' Mardi Gras — where a practically anything-goes-attitude collides with plenty of free-flowing booze and plenty of participants that bare-it-all for beads. Parade participants board floats and strut down Duval Street just before sunset the final day of Fantasy Fest to entertain thousands of parade-goers during the nearly three-hour parade.
Other highlights include less-royal-like, mostly "costumed" affairs; such as, the Vampire's Ball, the outrageous "Pinking of You" Decorated Bra Auction, a fetish party, celebrity look-a-like contest, toga party, a pajama and lingerie party and so much more!
Fantasy Fest Details
Fantasy Fest is held 10 days in October each year in Key West. Expect huge crowds to be in attendance, so >make lodging reservations well in advance if you plan to have a place to sleep. Some of the events require advance reservations or admission tickets and sell out early, so make those plans well in advance as well.
Take the link to the official Fantasy Fest site for details regarding event locations and see the links below to learn more about how to get to Key West and what to expect once you're there.