KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Thousands of masked and costumed partiers are to unleash their free-spirited alter egos during the Fantasy Fest Masquerade March, a lively walking parade set for Friday, Oct. 27.
The march through Key West’s historic Old Town is a highlight of the island city’s Fantasy Fest celebration, a lavish annual costuming and masking festival set for Friday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Oct. 29. The 2017 festival is themed “Time Travel Unravels,” with participants encouraged to depict colorful characters from past and future eras.
The masquerade march typically attracts bands and merrymakers wearing everything from feathered masks and finery to offbeat costumes inspired by the festival theme. Keys residents have a large presence in the event, sometimes called the locals’ march, as they share the rowdy revelry with costumed visitors.
Free to enter and watch, the 2017 promenade is to start at 5:30 p.m. at the Key West Cemetery’s Frances Street entrance. Participants are to proceed along two routes, stopping for libations at inns and other businesses along the way.
Spectators typically line the streets of Key West’s historic district, applauding and sometimes joining in, before the march reaches its end near the Fantasy Fest Street Fair on mile-long Duval Street. For even more fun, after-march parties and an oceanside concert are planned as well.
Past years’ marchers have included a dancing troupe of purple-suited skeletons, “barbarians” in horned and feathered headdresses, an elaborate orange creature with huge outspread wings and a tutu-wearing group carrying giant balloon letters that spelled “PEACE” and “LOVE.”
The madcap march is a prelude to the festival’s anticipated highlight, the Oct. 28 Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade. Featuring dozens of glittering motorized floats, costumed marching groups and lively island-style bands, the parade is to proceed down Key West’s Whitehead and Duval streets in front of some 60,000 fantasy fans.
Festival information and schedule: fantasyfest.com
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY