More than 100,000 people are expected to show to this year’s Fantasy Fest in Key West, which kicks off on Oct. 19. The annual event will feature more than 60 parties including costumed marches, street fairs, glamorous balls, as well as the show stopping and world-renowned Fantasy Fest Parade.
This year’s Fantasy Fest theme “Oh… The Games We Play” speaks to the young person in all of us. Ever the innovator of expression, this year’s festival will flood the streets of Key West with costumes of America’s favorite game show hosts, board games, or one of the many cosplay characters holding the digital attention of both young and aged.
While Fantasy Fest isn’t an official LGBT event, the LGBT community has long been intertwined in the story of the annual festival as a core demographic of patronage; often revered as the highlight of the Key West LGBT social calendar with its many events and parties throughout its ten days of celebration.
Festival goers flock to Duval street which remains the epicenter of the LGBT community and is home to popular LGBT night spots where visitors can enjoy fun drag shows, happy hours, karaoke nights and fun themed contests. A stone’s throw from Duval street is the Bourbon Street Pub, a staple of the Key West LGBT community often touted as the most popular gay bar on the island.
What began as a Halloween meets Mardi Gras inspired parade in 1979, Fantasy Fest was organized to bring economic life to Key West during the slow months of fall. The festival has emerged over the past decades as a destination for revelers eager to take in the temperate climate and the at times outrageous costumes the world has come to associate with Fantasy Fest.
The Halloween spectacular that takes over Key West each year has continually boosted the local economy, filling hotel rooms, restaurants and bars with bedazzled on lookers eager to join the party.
Fantasy Fest organizers have grown the economy of Key West and the breadth of the festival year over the years by investing in diverse events throughout the 10-day festival. Many events and activities are platforms for local philanthropic fundraising including the iconic King & Queen of Fantasy Fest campaign, which provides financial support to AIDS help of Monroe County, a non-profit benefiting people living with HIV/AIDS.
The creative opportunities are endless. This history of hosting personal expression is one of the many reasons Fantasy Fest continues to grow as thousands flock to the opportunity to express themselves.
Fantasy Fest and the many Island events taking place Oct. 19-28 serve as a thriving calendar of events for the community, promising pool parties, parade viewing, street fairs and more. Beyond the thunder of the nightlife, Fantasy Fest has been and continues to be a space for freedom of expression and a safe haven for the LGBT community.
For the more adventurous festival goers, the “Little Black Book” calendar hosts more adult themed events such as “Men of LaBare” as seen in the movie “Magic Mike” and the ABC (Anything But Clothes) party hosted by VH1’s Flavor Flave.
Each day of the festival hosts a new and titillating excursion into the fantasy world curated for expression and exploration. Mild to wild, this electrifying cultural experience hosts an accepting venue for exploration and community interaction.
Whether you come for events like “BART,” the newest event added to Fantasy Fest where bars & art meet for a self-guided tour along the docks at the historic seaport or the risqué nightlife parties; Fantasy Fest 2018 holds surprises and new experiences for even the most seasoned patron when it kicks off on Oct. 19.
For information about Fantasy Fest and the many events taking place this October, visit: www.FantasyFest.com.
When: Friday Oct. 19
Where: Bahama Village - Key West
Event: Goombay Festival
Description: Exuberant street party showcasing island arts and crafts, music and food in the heart of Key West’s historic Bahama Village
More info: Fantasyfest.com/schedule
When: Friday Oct. 19
Where: 407 Wall St. Key West, FL
Event: Madame DuJour’s Magical Game Show & Burlesque Experience
Description: An interactive event awaits as Key West Burlesque and world-renowned magician Nick Locapo create a live production that’s one part live game, two parts theatrical burlesque performances.
When: Sunday Oct. 21
Where: 3501 Roosevelt Blvd
Event: Zombie Bike Ride
Description: Zombie bike ride of four miles that takes a leisurely pace down US1 along the Atlantic with riders adorned in costumes.
More info: www.zombiebikeride.com
Monday Oct. 22
Where: Bourbon St Pub
Event: Tops or Bottoms
Description: Underwear party
More info: Bourbonstpub.com/fantasyfest.html
When: Monday Oct. 22
Where: 301 Whitehead Street
Event: Kinky Carnival
Description: Key West’s original Fantasy Fest Kink Party
When: Thursday Oct. 25
Where: Key West Amphitheatre
Event: 36th Annual Headdress Ball
Description: The premier LGBT event of Fantasy st headdress competition
More info: Headdressballkeywest.com
When: Friday Oct. 26
Where: Island House Key West 1129 Fleming Street
Event: Bowties & Birthday Suits
Description: Island House Resort for Men invites all boys for an epic all-male, clothing-optional pool party.
More info: Islandhousekeywest.com