My advice if you live in Key West and don't like the bizarre nature of public body art, drinking, loud late parties and thick crowds, then this is a very good time to take a vacation. Unless like me you are in a reserved occupation and have to work. Then, like me, you take a week off ahead of time and try to come home well rested for the madness that is to follow:
But it's not all drunken nudity, as starting today there is Goombay described repeatedly as "family friendly" and it is. Goombay is supposed to be a Bahamian type junkanoo festival featuring music and food from Key West's neighbors in the Bahamas.
They also have kids choirs singing and everyone is fully dressed. I like Goombay just fine. But Goombay on Petronia Street is the opening salvo in a ten day affair that offers various odd and very odd parties. If you like bondage orgies they are available, or if you want to strut in a peculiar hat you can do that too in front of a dedicated audience of hat admirers. The full schedule is here:
If you aren't ready for it the Fantasy Zone can be a bit surprising. It consists of Duval Street to Truman Avenue and the side streets on either side. Simonton and Whitehead are not in the Fantasy Zone. And the Fantasy Zone is where you can wear minimal clothing, female nipples and all buttock cracks must be covered even minimally and no genitalia showing. Seriously.
And you can carry alcohol around with you. An explosive combination you might think, but Fantasy Fest is quite peaceful and cheerful. The boundaries of the Fantasy Zone are clearly marked and please note: even inside the Zone you cannot have sex in public. No lewd acts as they say... seriously. That gets you arrested. Look for the signs if you are confused:
There are those detractors of Fantasy Fest who complain that participants are getting older and saggier as though the general population of Key West isn't getting older...There is a sexist and ageist tone to these complaints that doesn't really fit with the notion that Fantasy Fest is a fun time for all. But be warned not everyone is going to fit your notion of acceptable beauty. Some people you admire for their sheer ballsyness in a society dedicated to youth and standard dreary beauty:
Basically next week it starts out relatively quiet with a few people dressed up slipping through crowds of people ready with cameras, and slowly as the week progresses more and more people in less and less clothing show up and walk around. The idea is to get your picture taken so if you see someone you want to store in your camera, or post on your blog its perfectly acceptable, even desirable to show up smiling and ask to photograph their tits. If you are under dressed and don't want to be immortalized this is the week to stay home.
There is always a charity fundraiser underlying Fantasy Fest and associated activities of course which in Key West justifies everything.Originally Fantasy Fest was a few locals waking a couple of blocks down Duval to break up the tedium of October when sales were flat and hurricanes threatened and Key West was a money-free zone. Nowadays when the city is a practically year round destination and no one seems to get a break ever it almost feels like an imposition to have this week of faintly obscene over the top noisiness.
A fine example is the Zombie Bike Ride on Sunday which has grown so huge as to be unmanageable. How do you manage 20,000 drunk cyclists?
Or, maybe the question is: do you need to manage them?
I like most people take time to enjoy the locals' parade which used to be a celebration for locals on local political and social themes of the past year. It's been discovered so now its the Masquerade March and all are welcome and pile up around the cemetery on Frances Street at 5 pm today and march to Duval. It is still in my estimation the best part of Fantasy Fest. There was that year a particularly nasty nutter who walked around town with signs saying "Gods Hates Fags" and in proper Fantasy Fest style his message got...obscured. I love the locals' parade sense of humor:
If you need advice on how to handle this stuff all I can tell you is don't get too worked up. This really is a week to go with the flow. If you have accidentally booked a room and find yourself surrounded don't mind what you see. Leave the family values complaints to residents of the city well practiced in getting annoyed about drunken nudity. People make a lot of money off this stuff so it isn't going away. For myself I just try to remember we are lucky to have basically a week off while the rest of the country braces for snow. Fantasy Fest is stupid and sometimes not what you want or expect but in a world filled with anger and rage it is lighthearted cheerful and basically harmless. No "pussy grabbing," no rape, no battery. Just drunks having fun.
Sometimes you meet a friend, in drag and have time to catch up over a beer. That he is a woman and in heels and you are in the street makes no mind:
If you enjoyed the locals parade catch the Grand Parade Saturday night, the event that wraps up the whole ten days. The best part are the local floats that some years are outstanding with local commentary and some years you just get to see people showing off a bit...
And then after its all over finally there is the debris field which Cheyenne loved!
And some people are so feeble they have to sleep it off. Imagine that.
Till next year!