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What is Fantasy Fest, you ask? It's a mostly adult themed costume party that takes place in Old Key West during the last full week of October. The yearly event started in 1979 and has been likened to Mardi-Gras, only better. Key West Fantasy Fest is the place for lovers of body paint, sheer, see through attire, and basically bare breasts bearing beads and bouncing blissfully. Fantasy Fest costumes range from elaborate erotic creations planned months in advance to painted on bikinis and lingerie to spur of the moment splotches of color. Not to mention the occasional thinly disguised (or not) full frontal nudity. Top-freedom and public nudity are technically illegal, but you wouldn't know it once you get there. If past Fantasy Fests are any indication, then body paint is good enough, and you won't be bothered. On the contrary, Key West's Finest (love you guys & gals!) are there to protect your right to party. (my words, not theirs)
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Officially, Key West Fantasy Fest lasts 10 days, this coming year from October 17-26 2014, but for me the fun starts mid-week when the barricades go up and Duval Street becomes Pedestrians Only. The bars open their doors, body paint artists set up shop, and costumed revelers roam about, mood altering libations in hand. Contrary to Mardi-Gras, which is more famous for flashing, those sporting body paint are often already topless, and you'll find some adventurous souls in full body paint, which is about as close to full public nudity as it gets. Photos turn out best if you ask permission. People are more likely to stop and pose for pics and you'll have more fun if you join in with your own costume. By the end of the week, the crowds get so dense, you could probably (theoretically) get away with a naked walk for quite a while before drawing any unwanted attention. (Just keep in mind there are SOME rules!)
If you're thinking of making Fantasy Fest 2014, RESERVE EARLY! Rooms fill up soon, and may be subject to minimum stays and other restrictions. Suzie, a licenced travel agent who's also a local, can give you the inside scoop and often save you money. You can also check room availability at Innres or Fla-Keys.com.
If you insist on following a schedule, you can find publications and web sites listing Fantasy Fest events, parties, parades and contests of all sorts, but you'll find me just hanging out on Duval Street. :-)
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