You may have noticed that the Headdress Ball, our premier LGTBQ event that usually makes “headlines” during the annual Fantasy Fest festivities, wasn’t held this past October. Well, I’m thrilled to announce it has been rescheduled, and the upcoming “over-the-top” event is themed to put Key West in a Mardi Gras mood.

Headdress Ball Fantasy Fest Key West

Virginia Wark’s stunning multi-clock creation enthralled audiences at the 2017 Headdress Ball. (Photo by Peter Arnow)

Celebrating its 38th year of delighting audiences, the ball is now set for Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater at Truman Waterfront Park. The spacious open-air venue is located on the western tip of our island and has stunning views of the harbor (and our renowned sunsets, of course).

The glamorous LGBTQ gala typically features about 25 contestants showcasing their original masks, cowls, bonnets and other headgear — some measuring in inches and others soaring numerous feet above the participants.

The event offers spectators a unique blend of entertainment and imaginative pageantry with incredibly elaborate costumes, masks and headdresses. The contestants’ ensembles can take weeks to assemble — or even months for some overachievers.

And OMG, let me tell you, they are not run-of-the-mill masks or headdresses. Instead, the flashy-to-the-max creations are usually decorated with feathers, baubles, unexpected appendages and sometimes even moving parts. So if you’re thinking about entering (and there’s no entry fee, BTW), fire up your creative juices and your glue gun.

In past years some entrants have combined amazing choreography, sound and light shows utilizing laser and LED lighting, fog machines and other sensational elements — all vying for attention, applause and acclaim.

Austin Ferguson, also known as Elle Taylor, displays an “Ultimate Evil” costume at a previous Headdress Ball. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

The VIP audience judges participants as they compete for cash prizes, including a first-place award of $3,000. And although most entrants are decked out from head to toe, participants are judged from the waist up only — focusing on their headdresses.

If you’re like me and want to meet some contenders (and get that perfect selfie to share with all your social media peeps), I suggest arriving early. The gates open at 6:30 p.m., allowing lots of time for schmoozing and possibly grabbing a libation or two before the fabulous evening of entertainment begins.

The eagerly awaited contestants and their gorgeous headdresses should hit the stage about 8 p.m.-ish (we’re on “island time,” after all).

The event’s master of ceremonies is yet to be announced, but will no doubt be both talented and quick with a quip. My favorite DJ and local radio host (on WEOW 92.7), Rude Girl, will be working sound.

Florida Keys performers offer dazzling entertainment between headdress presentations — and also help with any last-minute makeup and/or adjustments to the contestants’ “heady” creations.

Headdress Ball Key West angel

Tampa’s Janet Sherfey competes in a past Headdress Ball. (Photo by Steve Panariello, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Did you know the Key West Business Guild, one of the oldest LGBTQ business organizations in the U.S., has produced the ball since it began? The event is a major annual fundraiser for this worthy organization that has welcomed LGBTQ visitors to our island community since 1978.

General admission tickets are $15 per person, chair seating is $35 and reserved tables for four people start at $280. To purchase tickets, click here. (FYI, If you bought tickets for the originally scheduled date, they will be honored for the February event.)

Either way, don’t even think about missing this unforgettable gala — just come out and join us for an exotic and “head-turning” evening under the stars.

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