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Key West’s Fantasy Fest Turns 40: The Florida Keys’ most exuberant festival returns from 18-27 October 2019

It might currently be the peak of the summer party season with revellers enjoying Mediterranean escapes, but come autumn, attention should turn to jetting off to the Florida Keys city of Key West for Fantasy Fest, its internationally renowned masking and costuming festival that marks its 40th birthday from 18-27 October 2019.

Each year, the 10-day exotic extravaganza, a ‘Mardi Gras’ style festival, takes over the island city of Key West for one of the most off-key celebrations on the planet. It features masquerade balls, costume competitions, street fairs, performance art, glamorous galas and an over-the-top grand parade. This year’s event theme is ‘In Tune But … Off Key’ with the festival including musically themed merriment in genres from rockabilly to salsa – and even a mobile cocktail party featuring a quirky ukulele band.

Fantasy Fest organisers encourage people to march to the beat of their own drum, designing their costumes and parade floats around everything from memories of bebop and ‘glam’ rock to operatic daydreams and camp Broadway musicals.

Among the dozens of events orchestrated during the festival, highlights include the crowning of the Fantasy Fest King and Queen at the Royal Coronation soiree and stage show, a wacky costumed Pet Masquerade, the Key West Business Guild’s Headdress Ball, where ‘headliners’ compete for prizes in huge and elaborate masks, and the Masquerade March of costumed characters. Marchers are encouraged to bring whistles, noisemakers and percussion instruments to add to the excitement as they strut through part of Key West’s Old Town.

As the festival draws to a close on its final weekend, close to 70,000 spectators are expected to line Whitehead and Duval streets on 26 October for the spectacular Bud Light Fantasy Fest Parade. A dazzling procession of large-scale floats, costumed marching groups and bands, the parade displays the off-key creativity and exuberant spirit that have kept party lovers ‘tuning in’ to the festival for 40 years.

Join the party at Fantasy Fest: Bon Voyage (0800 316 0194 / www.bon-voyage.co.uk) offers a seven-night twin-centre holiday to the Florida Keys from £2,135 per person. Departing 21 October 2019, the price includes direct flights from LHR to Miami with Virgin Atlantic, car hire for the duration, three nights in Islamorada and four nights in Key West to coincide with the final weekend of Fantasy Fest. The price is based on two adults travelling and sharing room-only accommodation. The trip duration runs to eight nights total to include an overnight flight back to the UK.

For more information on scheduled events during Fantasy Fest, visit: www.fantasyfest.com

Fantasy Fest - 2017. Photo Credit: Andy Newman

Fantasy Fest - 2017. Photo Credit: Andy Newman

Fantasy Fest - 2016. Photo Credit: Rob O'Neal

Fantasy Fest - 2016. Photo Credit: Rob O'Neal

Fantasy Fest - 2015. Photo Credit: Rob O'Neal

Fantasy Fest - 2015. Photo Credit: Rob O'Neal

Fantasy Fest - Saturday Parade. Photo Credit: Florida Keys News Bureau

Fantasy Fest - Saturday Parade. Photo Credit: Florida Keys News Bureau

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