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...