October has flown past and we‚Äôre looking at the kickoff of Fantasy Fest 2012.¬† More than 40 masquerade contests, themed parties, and parades offer the chance to be who or what your fantasies may dream up.
During this outrageous festival you‚Äôre likely to encounter walking sea life, politicians, movie characters, zombies, vampires and animals all bejeweled with sequins, feathers, body paint, fairy dust and elaborate masks.
For example, Friday, Oct. 26, brings the Masquerade March through the streets of Key West‚Äôs historic district. Starting on Frances Street by the cemetery gates, hundreds of revelers march from guesthouse to guesthouse sampling libations and picking up more partygoers ‚ÄĒ until a group of several thousand reach Duval Street, passing Bobby‚Äôs Monkey Bar.
This is my favorite event of the festival and over the years I‚Äôve been a jungle native, a devil, a character from the movie ‚ÄúV ‚ÄĒ The Vendetta‚ÄĚ and Juanita from ‚ÄúSordid Lives.‚ÄĚ
Also on Friday, Duval Street becomes a colorful marketplace with vendors selling everything from arts and crafts to jewelry, masks and feathers, and a variety of food. Most entertaining, though, are the costumed shoppers. You never know who (or what!) you‚Äôll see strolling through the marketplace. There will be quite a bit of body paint and exposed flesh, as well as some of the most elaborate costumes you‚Äôve ever seen. This is a day not to be missed!
Saturday brings the Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest Parade, when 60,000 people line Duval Street as dozens of floats and marching groups strut their way along Whitehead Street, Front Street and Duval. (Get there early and mark your spot, since huge crowds are guaranteed!)
Several restaurants offer dinner and parade packages. Our own Hard Rock Caf√© has terraces overlooking the street with a great view of the parade, a special dinner menu, beverages and beads. Bourbon St. Pub also offers great viewing from the balcony and a catered buffet complete with bar.
When the parade ends you might think things would slow down, but they just keep on going with the annual Parrot Heads in Paradise ‚ÄúMeeting of the Minds‚ÄĚ convention starting Thursday, Nov. 1.
These fans of singer Jimmy Buffett don‚Äôt just come here to enjoy concerts around Key West ‚ÄĒ they also contribute to the community. The 239 Parrot Head chapters span three countries, have more than 28,000 members, and through 2011 have donated more than $26.2 million dollars to local and national charitable organizations.
Ready for a break from the action? Take a walk or bike ride to Mattheessen‚Äôs 4th of July Ice Cream Parlor and Caf√©. Brent and Christina Mattheessen serve great sandwiches, soups, and the best homemade ice cream in Key West.
You‚Äôll also find burgers, wraps, fries, and giant fresh-baked brownies and cookies. If you‚Äôre in the American Airlines dining program, you even get miles for dining!
Speaking of American Airlines, in mid-November American Eagle is to start jet service between Miami and Key West International Airport. This will make the short flight even shorter!¬† American Eagle joins Delta, U.S. Airways, and AirTran/Southwest in offering fast jet service to our tiny island.
I hope to see you at one of the upcoming parties or parades.