is a street party
held annually on the last week of October in Key West
The Fantasy Fest was first held in 1979, what began as primarily a party staged to add pep to the quiet days of October soon acquired a life of its own. Tony Falcone and the late Bill Conkle, owners of Fast Buck Freddie's Department Store, along with Joe Liska and Frank Romano, who owned Key West Aloe at the time, organized a party to stimulate business. The ten day celebration now includes balls, costume competitions, AIDS fundraisers, body painting, drag queen contests, costume parties, lots of drinking, as well as pet and neighborhood parades for the whole family. Fantasy Fest has grown to rival New Orleans
' Mardi Gras
as an event drawing out-of-towners.
The highlight of Fantasy Fest is a parade featuring humorous floats, including one carrying the annually elected Conch King and Queen. In recent years, attendance at Fantasy Fest has surpassed 100,000 people, or more than three times the population of the island itself.
In October 2005, the event was postponed because of devastation wrought on the island by Hurricane Wilma; instead of being held at its usual time close to Halloween, it was moved to December and celebrated just before Christmas.
The Conch King and Queen
The Conch King
and Conch Queen
are symbolic titles bestowed upon two residents of Key West
selected annually during the course of Fantasy Fest. The tradition stems from the longstanding practice of locals to refer to themselves as Conchs
, and jokingly to the island as though it were a separate country called the Conch Republic
. The title is also a play on the name of the Queen Conch
, once very common in the waters around Key West. Candidates become the Fantasy Fest King and Queen in a fundraising competition to benefit AIDS
Help, an organization devoted to assisting individuals afflicted with the AIDS virus. The King and Queen candidates who raise the most money during the competition period, which can last for several months, are crowned the King and Queen of Fantasy Fest in a gala ceremony.
In 2007, candidates for Fantasy Fest King and Queen raised over $200,000 USD for AIDS Help, and since 1989, coronation contests have collected almost $2.6 million.
- Goombay - a street party held in Key West's Bahama Village neighborhood.
- The Royal Coronation Ball - where the Conch King and Queen are crowned.
- The annual Headdress Ball.
- The Pet Masquerade - a costume contest for pets.
- Pretenders in Paradise - an annual costume contest.
- The Masquerade March - a daytime procession through the streets of Key West.
- The Street Fair.
- The Fantasy Fest parade - the culmination of the festival.