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Fantasy Fest kicks off in Key West with 10 days of masquerades, parties and costume competitions

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Key West’s Fantasy Fest began Friday, launching a 10-day schedule of masquerades, elaborate parties and costume competitions.

The masking and costuming festival is themed “Uniforms & Unicorns: 200 Years Of Sailing Into Fantasy” to salute the Florida Keys’ 2023 bicentennial and that of the U.S. Navy’s presence in Key West.

The Fantasy Fest schedule features nearly 100 events including Sunday’s Zombie Bike Ride, the Pet Masquerade for costumed pets and their people, the flamboyant Headdress Ball and the Masquerade March that draws several thousand costumed participants in historic Old Town.

Events are to culminate next Saturday night, when some 60,000 spectators are expected to line Key West’s downtown streets for the Fantasy Fest Parade, a procession of large-scale motorized floats, costumed marching groups and island-style dancers in colorful feathered attire.

The festival has been notoriously famous for its decadent motif, but during the past few years, festival officials have focused their efforts on creative costuming and an effort to create more PG-rated events.

Fantasy Fest debuted in 1979 to boost the fledgling tourism economy during a slow period. Now, tourism officials said, it brings approximately $30 million in annual revenues to the Florida Keys.

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