Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Zombie Bike Ride 2019

Over the years the Zombie Bike Ride has become one of the most popular events associated with Fantasy Fest. This is despite the fact the ride is organized as an independent advance event, similar to Goombay, before the main carnival party called Fantasy Fest really kicks off. 
To approach the route after work required me to trail groups of costumes pedalling toward the south side of Key West. Originally the ride originated at the Stock Island bike shop Recycle, which organized the event. That soon proved to be a bad idea  when thousands of riders showed up, 7500 last year according to people who count such things. Crossing the only bridge into and out of Key West with an immense slow moving line of bicycles proved impractical. Not to mention the pre-ride gathering at the side of the Overseas Highway...Something had to be done.
So they moved the kick off location to Pines Park next to the East Martello Tower on South Roosevelt Boulevard. The ride sets off shortly before sunset  with police closing the roads as they go and eventually, in the fullness of time the bicycles and their costumed riders have a street party on Lower Duval where the bars are centered.
This year  I took up a position where I could park my scooter easily as I came straight from work and road closures prevented easy access to the start line where I would usually hang around for a little while. As it was I caught bicycles going "the wrong way" toward South Roosevelt to join the crowd departing from the proper spot. 
As you can see from this long line of pictures the costumes are the thing and this is an entirely child friendly event.
Well let me rephrase that, I saw tons of kids  riding as well as spectating so people who actually have children seem to think this event is child friendly. Good enough for me what has no children or experience with them..

 Cars prohibited. Once can only imagine the driver's astonishment at being so ill informed about the wifdely publicized event that actually closed a main road for a while...

Monday, October 21, 2019

Curry Mansion

A lunch break on a rainy day prompted me to go for a walk in black and white mode.
I found myself walking past the historic Curry Mansion built by an immigrant from Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas in 1896. It was  a mail order design apparently and included all the trimmings still visible today.
In the days before air conditioning it was normal for people to sling hammocks and sleep outdoors and the mansion has a couple of wide verandas suitable for the purpose
The house was falling into disrepair by 1976  when it was purchased, restored and  turned into a guest house.  Below you can see the decorative fretwork that was a boast of the original plans:
Hurricane Irma tore down some of the massive tree cover from in front of the mansion which has opened it up to view.
And I find it very photogenic from all sides:
This last picture below is NOT the Curry Mansion but I include it here by way of saying, again, you don't need a huge historic pile to have an atmospheric home in Old Town...

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Goombay 2019

Fantasy Fest 2019  has officially got underway with the opening of the first event of the week, which is Goombay.
Goombay is a street festival on Petronia Street from Duval to Fort and it is supposed to be a celebration of Bahama Village, the African American community in Key West. Bahama Village has seen a lot of gentrification just like the rest of the city but it remains a cohesive community ina town devoted to transient tourism.
My target was a food stall not devoted to precisely Afro-Caribbean roots, but I was recommended to try the smoked brisket cooked in the Baltimore style:
I took some home for dinner with my wife and all it needed was the recommended horseradish accompaniment. Smoke and horseradish: simplicity wins!
Goombay is afamily festival unlike the rest of Fantasy Fest. It is really a  separate event without nudity adult themes or costumes but it takes place the weekend before fantasy fest so that makes them easy to combine for advertising and promotion.
Fantasy Fest is under new management and I have to say there is a general hope that  perhaps the trend toward less nudity and more fun costumes in public will continue to be upheld this year. Goombay isn't associated with any of those issues but  with the appearance of the street fair the arrival of Fantasy Fest is obvious. 
Today there will be the Zombie Bike Ride along South Roosevelt Boulevard ending downtown with a street party of thousands of bicycle riders. Then the private parties begin and culminate in the Grand Parade next Saturday night. The restaurants open their doors, the hotels are full one hopes and the original intent to provide  an infusion of cash in a  town out of season will be fulfilled even though the season gets longer and longer. 
I have to say I enjoy Fantasy Fest so before I am roundly berated I had better explain why. This is one week Key West is on citywide vacation. That I am working every day doesn't change that. This is the city's carnival, a week in the calendar when the rest of the world carries on as usual and we have a citywide time out. Let me hasten to add I don't like costumes and I don't like the naked people being tasteless which sounds contradictory. 
I enjoy the festive atmosphere, I like smart clever costumes even if they are more risque than one might imagine consonant with this puritanical society we live in and I also enjoy the reminder however slight that Key West was and sometimes can be non conformist. 
Alternatively you can join the ranks of tut tutting people on the sidelines who welcome cruise ships and twelve month tourism and see no contradiction in abhorring this mild attempt at adult Halloween. Yes, perhaps fantasy Fest has matured enough to enjoy the costumes like adults with good taste. I wonder...