Postcards from Key West:Key West Revelry Continues with Parrot Heads and Pirates

Fantasy Fest, themed “Aquatic Afrolic,” came to a close in Key West with the “Fat Lady Sings” tea dance at La Te Da. At this year’s festival, we were treated to elaborate headdresses, creative costuming, artistic body painting, hundreds of zombies promenading down Duval Street, and the Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest Parade through the streets of Old Town with more than 50 glittering floats and marching groups.

Many attendees this year enjoyed themselves so much that they’ve already booked their rooms for the 2012 festival, to be themed “A-Conch-Alypse!” and take place Oct. 19-28 — so start thinking about your costumes and booking your accommodations!

November slid in behind the festival, beginning with the 20th annual Parrot Heads in Paradise convention. Some 3,500 of singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett’s fans descended on the island with their colorful headgear, tropical shirts, flip flops, shorts and/or sundresses to dance in the streets of the island that inspired many of Jimmy’s classic songs.

In reality, Parrot Heads are a very charitable group who enjoy the music of their idol and focus on contributing to local and national charities. Since 2002, some 27,000 members of 237 Parrot Head chapters from three countries have raised more than $22.1 million dollars for charitable organizations — and collectively contributed nearly 2.7 million hours of community service.

Unfortunately, I’m missing the lively group since I’m at the opening of the 12th International Conference on Gay and Lesbian Tourism in Palm Springs, California. Several hundred global leaders in gay and lesbian tourism are meeting to share ideas, network, and learn about LGBT travel trends garnered from a survey of more than 60,000 gays across North and South America.

We learned that LGBT/GLBT, gay, lesbian, partner, husband/wife, sexual orientation, and gender identity are widely accepted phrases when referring to our community; it is no longer accepted to consider us an “alternative” lifestyle or market, mention “sexual preference” or say “those people.” It’s somewhat taboo now to call our community “homosexuals” or “queers.”

There will be great discussions with this group of travel professionals — who may come from very rural areas, communities like Key West, or even countries that have much different cultural attitudes than we do in the Conch Republic.

On another note, if you’re into pirates, we’ll be hosting the annual Pirates in Paradise festival in a few short weeks. Starting Nov. 24, our island will be invaded by swashbucklers, wenches, and bold buccaneers — all in traditional seafaring attire.

You can join their festivities at the Pirate Village & Market, dine with pirates and wenches at Thanksgiving’s “Thankstaken Pirates’ Holiday Party & Feast,” unleash your inner swashbuckler by competing in the “Most Buxom Wench & Bad Ass Pirate Contest” and much more. In addition, you can cruise the high seas on daily sunset sails on the Schooner Wolf with Admiral Finbar and the Pirates in Paradise crew.

Just before the pirates sail away at the festival’s end, we ready the island for Christmas with our annual Holiday Parade set for Dec. 3. You may think you’ve seen a Christmas parade, but you haven’t seen anything till you watch how we Key Westers strut our holiday cheer down Truman Avenue and Duval Street.

This is a family affair with Santa in a boat, drag queens and kids on floats and families lining the streets hoping for candy. Yes, we throw tons of candy to the multitudes along the parade route.)

I’ll have more on the holidays next time!

Steve Smith can be found at KeysVoices.com.


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