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Key West Fantasy Fest, Florida, USA

Fantasy Fest is a street party held annually on the last week of October in Key West, Florida, USA. The event has escalated to a ten day celebration that includes balls, body painting, drag queen contests, costume parties as well as neighborhood parades.
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Key West Fantasy Fest, Florida, USA

The first Fantasy Fest was held in 1979 when two local businessmen, Tony Falcone and Bill Conkle, organized a party to stimulate business. The event has escalated to a 10 day celebration that includes balls, parades, costume competitions, body painting competitions, drag queen contests, costume parties, lots of drinking, as well as pet and neighborhood parades for the whole family. Fantasy Fest has grown to rival New Orleans' Mardi Gras as an event drawing out-of-towners.

Traditionally October has been a slow time for tourism in the Keys, but since its inception, Fantasy Fest has continually boosted the economy by filling up hotel rooms and inundating local businesses, restaurants, and bars during this time period. The tremendous influx of visitors during the ten days of the festival sustains the local economy until the holiday season begins. Fantasy Fest is committed to extending the time that visitors stay by encouraging the creation of diverse events throughout the entire ten days. The opportunity to show off the imaginative and resourceful spirit that defines the Keys excites participants as well as the thousands that are drawn to the Keys.

The highlight of Fantasy Fest is its parade featuring humorous floats, including one carrying the annually elected Conch King and Queen. In recent years, attendance at Fantasy Fest has surpassed 100,000 people, or more than three times the population of the island itself.

The Conch King and Conch Queen are symbolic titles bestowed upon two residents of Key West, Florida selected annually during the course of Fantasy Fest. The tradition stems from the longstanding practice of locals to refer to themselves as Conchs, and ironically to the island as though it were a separate country called the Conch Republic. The title is also a play on the name of the Queen Conch, once very common in the waters around Key West.

In October 2005, the event was postponed because of devastation wrought on the island by Hurricane Wilma; instead of being held at its usual time close to Halloween, it was moved to December and celebrated just before Christmas.

   

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