Key West’s 35th Annual Fantasy Fest

by Mike Halterman
Sunday Oct 13, 2013

The 35th annual Fantasy Fest will be taking Key West by storm for ten days this year, from October 18 to October 27. The event has grown over the past 35 years from small beginnings to become one of Key West's most anticipated yearly social gatherings.

Fantasy Fest was first conceptualized in 1978 by Joe Liszka and Frank Romano, who noticed that October was a traditionally slow season for Key West's tourism-based economy, and considering the weather was just as lovely in October as it is any other month, the businesses and hotels in Key West should have been a lot busier than they were. When Romano asked Liszka what they should do with regard to bringing in more tourists to Key West in October, Liszka replied that there should be a festival or carnival of some sort. From that original concept, Fantasy Fest was born.

The very first Fantasy Fest was held in October 1979 with the theme "Old Key West." Since then, tens of thousands of people converge on Key West each year. Finding the perfect theme for the year is crucial, and they have ranged through the years from scary to whimsical, but they all have in common that they are definitely unforgettable. The themes have ranged from "Caribbean" to "the 1960s" to "Hollywood" and even "the Zodiac," with the aspect of fantasy shoehorned in every year without fail. This year the theme is "Super Heroes, Villains and Beyond."

There are over 40 events happening at one time or another throughout the ten days of Fantasy Fest. We've put together our picks of the hottest events that you just should not miss. To view a full list of the events, go to fantasyfest.com.

Friday, October 18

Royal Coronation Ball

Vote for the King and Queen of Fantasy Fest 2013 while being entertained by fabulous Key West celebrities! Standing room only tickets are a $5 donation. VIP tickets cost $50 and include reserved seating and buffet-style dinner. Call Pam DeMala to buy your tickets at (305) 296-6196. This benefit is a fundraiser for AIDS Help of Key West and Monroe County. It takes place at 6 p.m. at Southernmost Beach Café, 1405 Duval St.

Tuesday, October 22

31st Annual Headdress Ball

This event is the annual fundraiser for the Key West Business Guild, co-sponsored by the Southernmost Hotel Collection. This get-together honors and helps one of the oldest LGBT chambers of commerce in the country, and is the only specifically gay event of the week. There is a $1500 grand prize for the person with the most unique and elaborate headdress! This year the event will be emceed by Tom Luna, King of Fantasy Fest 1992, and music will be in the capable hands of DJ Rude Girl. Tickets are on sale at headdressballkeywest.com. Doors open at 7 p.m. at Southernmost Hotel on the Beach, 508 South St.

Wednesday, October 23

Dungeon of Dark Secrets and Fetishes

801 Bourbon plays host to a naughty dungeon where you are free to explore your kinkiest desires with whomever you'd like. If you like to watch, that's all right too; all levels of participation are welcomed. Whether you're into leather, uniforms, masks, vinyl, or anything else you can think of, be ready to have a lot of not-so-clean fun. Tickets are available online at Ticketforce. Festivities begin at 9 p.m., 801 Bourbon Bar, 801 Duval St.

Friday, October 25

Fantasy Fest Street Fair

Food trucks, arts and crafts, and various other vendors line Duval Street for the length of a mile as people enjoy the wonderful atmosphere, great weather, and delicious cold beverages. The fair runs 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Duval St.

Bourbon St. Pub Tea Dance

Key West's most happening weekend block party includes dancing in the street with hot go-go boys and entertainment from fierce drag queens! What would YOU do for some beads? Let's see what you got! This fun dance party is absolutely free, but be sure to put some money aside to get your drink on! Join the party 1 p.m. at 724 and 801 Duval St.

Saturday, October 26

Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest Parade

Everyone gets dressed up (or down) in special costumes as floats travel down Duval Street decked out and inspired by this year's theme. Join the party and dance in the street with the nearly 75,000 other spectators in the culmination to one fabulous getaway. Sponsored by Captain Morgan rum. The parade starts at 7 p.m.

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