Key West's annual Fantasy Fest scares up thousands of revelers

The 10-day event features parades, costume contests and more.

KEY WEST — It’s party time in the Florida Keys during the islands’ annual 10-day festival known as Fantasy Fest.

The fun kicked off last weekend with a coronation ball for the king and queen and culminates with a weekend parade expected to draw more than 60,000 people.

This year’s lineup has included almost 100 events, including the Zombie Bike Ride and Friday night’s Masquerade March.

Event organizers encourage participants to design costumes and parade floats around the festival theme — embracing everything from old-style board games to online role-playing challenges. They might draw inspiration from suspects in Clue, riverboat gamblers, Bingo bimbos or quest-focused avatars from the World of Warcraft universe.Throughout the festival, attendees can immerse themselves in fantasy roles at themed parties, costume competitions and other gatherings. Antics on the overflowing schedule include the Ringmaster’s Pool Party, glow galas, toga and tutu affairs, the Venetian Masquerade Ball, a retro beach bash and a Zombie Bike Ride reminiscent of the Resident Evil video game series.

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Patti Bridges shows her dog, Cousin Itt, during the Fantasy Fest Pet Masquerade in Key West on Oct. 24, 2018. [Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO]

Key West’s renowned Duval Street becomes an amusement arcade Friday as vendors of costumes, arts and crafts, food and libations sell their wares in the mile-long Fantasy Fest Street Fair. In addition, the Masquerade March draws masked and costumed merrymakers for an exuberant walking parade.

The role-playing revelry is to reach its climax Saturday, Oct. 27, during the Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade through Key West’s historic downtown. Tens of thousands of spectators typically converge to cheer the parade’s exotic marching groups, island-style bands, costumed characters and lavishly decorated motorized floats.

Fantasy Fest began in 1979 when a small group of Key Westers were looking to bolster business between the summer and winter seasons.

For more information about Fantasy Fest or a list of events, check the calendar at the festival's official website.

This article contains information from the Associated Press and the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

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This article was written by one or more Florida Beach Insider staff members.