Revellers can express their creativity by donning dazzling costumes during Key West’s annual Fantasy Fest celebration. Running from Friday, 21 October through to Sunday, 30 October, this year’s festival theme is ‘Cult Classics & Cartoon Chaos.’

Several dozen masquerade parties, quirky costume contests, live music and theatre shows, and themed events are scheduled during the 10-day festival, culminating in a lavish grand parade featuring massive, motorised floats and elaborately costumed marching groups. 

Participants are encouraged to draw costume ideas from the festival theme, portraying characters inspired by favourite cartoons and television or film productions with a cult following. Influences might include animated offerings like ‘Family Guy’ or Hollywood classics like ‘Mad Max’ or ‘Pulp Fiction.’

Events begin with the ‘Thanks for the Memories’ Royal Coronation Ball to crown the festival king and queen, held at the Truman Waterfront’s Coffee Butler Amphitheatre on 21 October. Key West’s Caribbean roots are celebrated that weekend with Friday and Saturday’s family friendly Goombay street party in historic Bahama Village.

Subsequent festival highlights include Wednesday’s Pet Masquerade, where costumed dogs, cats, birds, and more prance across the stage at the Coffee Butler Amphitheatre. Contestants in the engaging antics might dress as Scooby Doo and his cohorts, cartoon feline Garfield, a flock of Angry Birds or even Wallace and Gromit.

Thursday brings the lavish Headdress Ball, also to be held at the amphitheatre, featuring prizes for the best masks and headdresses. Typically sporting feathers, glitter and glitzy accessories, many entries tower above their wearers’ heads in a fine display of design artistry.

The cartoon chaos takes to the streets on 28 October during the Captain Morgan Masquerade March. A favourite of Florida Keys residents and visitors alike, the march features vividly costumed participants promenading from Key West’s Frances Street to an after-party at the Green Parrot Bar on Whitehead Street.

Other festival standouts include the mini-but-mighty ‘Smallest Parade in the Universe,’ tutu and toga parties, multigenre musical salutes, and the fun-filled Fantasy Market at Truman Waterfront Park.

During the closing weekend, tens of thousands of spectators are expected to line Key West’s Whitehead and Duval streets on 29 October for the spectacular Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade. A procession of large-scale decorated floats, exotic marching groups and fantastically costumed characters, the parade displays the freewheeling creativity that has coloured the festival for more than 40 years.

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