In most places, beds are reserved for sleeping or amorous activities. But not in the Conch Republic — where, on a Saturday afternoon in late April each year, they’re propelled along Key West’s famed Duval Street on wheels in the Conch Republic Blue Ribbon Bed Race.

The wacky charity event is a highlight of the annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration, created to commemorate the Florida Keys’ symbolic 1982 secession from the United States — and re-invention as the irreverent republic — in protest against a U.S. Border Patrol blockade of the island chain. (FYI, the motto of the republic, which calls itself the world’s first fifth-world nation, is “We Seceded Where Others Failed.”)

Key West Conch Republic Bed Race

The offbeat annual race features teams of costumed entrants and colorfully decorated beds on wheels. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Billed as “the most fun you can have in bed with your clothes on,” the race pits multi-person teams against each other as they pilot their beds along Duval (which, by the way, has been dubbed the longest street in the world because it stretches from the Atlantic Ocean at one end to the Gulf of Mexico at the other).

According to race rules (yes, there actually ARE rules), each colorfully decorated bed must be mounted on wheels and either pushed or pulled by team members. One team member must ride on the bed.

“They’re in for the ride of their lives, because no brakes are allowed,” advised a Bed Race veteran who insisted on remaining nameless. “This isn’t the type of event where you read the newspaper in bed, that’s for sure.”

Past years’ races have featured a bed decorated like a smoke-blowing dragon, one accompanied by a gaggle of male and female Wonder Woman look-alikes, and many others that defy description.

The 2024 Bed Race is set to begin at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 27, with a final registration, lineup and inspection of entries, and a parade of beds. That’s followed by the competition itself, with teams attempting to outpace their rivals to earn first-place, second-place and people’s choice awards.

Key West conch Republic Bed Race

Always a crowd-pleaser, the rowdy race raises money for Key West’s Sister Season Fund. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

If you join the spectators on Duval Street for the freewheeling sporting challenge, prepare to encounter some pretty strange bedfellows (and possibly a few who are three sheets to the wind!).

Zany though it is, the race has a serious purpose: raising money for the local Sister Season Fund. The worthy organization provides financial help to hospitality- and tourism-related industry employees who are temporarily out of work because of situations including illness and accident. Since the charity’s inception in 2005, it has helped thousands of people who are vital to Key West’s workforce.

While the Bed Race is among the oldest events on the Conch Republic Independence Celebration’s schedule, it’s not necessarily the most eccentric. The festival runs April 19-28 with highlights including a “drag race” for female impersonators in staggeringly high heels, and the colorful so-called “world’s looooooongest parade.”

There’s also a pirate ball and costume contest, a ceremony saluting the historic secession, a lighthearted sea battle featuring tall ships, the Conch Crawl showcasing favorite watering holes, a sailing race that recalls the Florida Keys’ seafaring heritage, and a whole lot more.

So don’t pull the covers over your head and hit the alarm clock’s snooze button. Instead, exchange your jammies for traveling garb — and head down to the Conch Republic to be part of its exuberant annual celebration.