I have some great news to share: Fantasy Fest is a go for 2021! The highly anticipated Key West festival has attracted merrymakers since 1979 and is aptly described as “an annual 10-day party in paradise for grown-ups.”

Fantasy Fest logo letters

Key West’s beloved Fantasy Fest is to delight revelers in 2021 with more than 50 masquerades, costume contests, parties and other exuberant events.

Fun-loving revelers can enjoy more than 50 costume contests, masquerades, parties and performances during the super-popular annual event. This year’s masking and costuming festival will entertain partygoers from Oct. 22 through Oct. 31.

You may be wondering whether the event will be safe, given pandemic concerns? Well, about two months ago, organizers canceled the festival’s large-crowd highlights — including the iconic parade down Duval Street and the Masquerade March — to protect against the potential spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

The revised (and still fabulous) schedule blends less-crowded traditional favorite events with brand-new offerings to intrigue fantasy fans.

Key Westers love their parades, and although the main parade and Masquerade March are canceled, we still have one planned (yay!). The “Smallest Parade in the Universe” is a very cool miniature version of the Fantasy Fest parade that features tiny floats traveling along an artist-crafted replica of Duval Street. The parade will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, at The Studios of Key West, and will be live-streamed for public viewing.

Following the parade, the itty-bitty floats will be auctioned online to benefit the Monroe Association for ReMARCable Citizens, a Florida Keys nonprofit that provides life services for adult developmentally and intellectually disabled residents.

Featuring a lively jam session of tiny musicians, “Backyard Boogie” drew kudos and applause in a previous “Smallest Parade.”

Throughout the festival, attendees can immerse themselves in high-energy happenings including one of my favorites, Sloppy Joe’s rollicking Toga Party, that dates back to Fantasy Fest’s earliest days.

Hippie wannabes might head for the ’60s throwback bash titled “Wharfstock” at the Schooner Wharf Bar, while “island girls” can strut their stuff at the Homemade Bikini Contest at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon. And body painting fans can compete in the Living Art Expo, where the human form becomes the canvas, at Ocean Key Resort’s Sunset Pier.

Then (drum roll, please!), we’ll have lots of playful LGBTQ pool parties and mischievous late-night soirees held at various venues on the island, including the Island House Resort, 801 Bourbon, Saloon 1 and the Bourbon Street Complex.

Do you prefer your drama to be on a stage and not with your friends? Well then, we have some must-see theatrical productions lined up for your viewing pleasure.

The shows include “Harriette Potter and the Enchanted Tassel,” a “spellbinding” look at Harry Potter’s world presented by Key West Burlesque at the Key West Theater, and the cult musical “The Rocky Horror Show” blending horror and hilarity at the Waterfront Playhouse.

Island House pool Key West

Pool parties, like this one at Island House’s welcoming pool, are among Fantasy Fest’s featured events. (Photo courtesy of Island House)

The performances are a fantastic opportunity to experience the talents of our Keys–based actors. Please note that both venues currently have COVID-19 safety protocols in place for their staff and audiences, with the info listed on their web pages.

For our Fantasy Fest “super fans” who never miss a year, there’s a new experience added to the roster of action-packed festivities. It’s the inaugural Fantasy Fest Bar Masquerade, a tour providing participants who hold “cocktail passports” the chance to show off their festival finery and savor libations at 11 watering holes.

Wow, some solid food may be in order after that event(!). If so, Key West has some fantastic gay-owned and -operated eateries guaranteed to cure your munchies — including Red Shoe Island Bistro, Azur, Poké in the Rear and the Flaming Buoy Filet Co.

For a schedule of everything Fantasy Fest, check out fantasyfest.com. Festival coordinators encourage attendees to PLEASE abide by COVID-19 protection protocols; visit fantasyfest.com/covid-19-safety-protocols/ for details.

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