KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Sea monsters and mermaids, creatures of the deep and escapees from Davy Jones’ locker are to surface in Key West Friday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 30, during the island city’s annual Fantasy Fest celebration. Born more than 30 years ago, the festival is internationally recognized for its uninhibited flair and lighthearted spirit.
Themed “Aquatic Afrolic” this year, Fantasy Fest features 10 days of masquerade balls, costume contests, parties and ocean-inspired escapades climaxing in a glittering grand parade set for Saturday, Oct. 29.
Event organizers encourage 2011 participants to dive into designing floats and costumes around the festival theme. They might represent real or imagined underwater denizens, flashy fishes, sinister seafarers or even seductive citizens of Atlantis.
The aquatic action is to begin with a Royal Coronation Ball Friday, Oct. 21, to crown the festival 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 “Underseas Odyssey” Headdress Ball, featuring prizes for the best masks, helmets and other headgear. Wednesday brings the offbeat Pet Masquerade and Parade, where furred, feathered and even finned friends showcase their animal magnetism while competing for costume prizes.
Elaborately costumed competitors present high-energy performances on a beachfront stage Thursday, Oct. 27, during Pretenders in Paradise, Fantasy Fest’s most elaborate costume competition.
Key West’s renowned Duval Street becomes the stage Friday as venders of costumes, arts and crafts, food and libations star in the mile-long Fantasy Fest Street Fair. In addition, the Masquerade March draws schools of “fishy” frolickers in masks and costumes for an exuberant walking parade.
The festival schedule also includes a pirate bash, (Sea) Monsters’ Ball, soiree for sea nymphs and sailors, burlesque extravaganza, themed costume competitions, tea dances and parties worthy of Poseidon himself.
The aquatic frolic is to make its biggest splash Saturday, Oct. 29, during the Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest Parade through Key West’s historic downtown. Tens of thousands of spectators converge to cheer its marching groups in feathered and sequined robes, Caribbean bands, costumed characters and lavishly decorated motorized floats.
Event information: www.fantasyfest.net
Key West visitor information: www.fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY