The Fantasy Festival was started in 1979 by Bill Kunkle, Tony Falcon, Joe Lesca, and Frank Romano to attract tourists during the slow season. Fantasy Fest boosted the economy in Key West by populating local hotels, bars, and restaurants during this time period. [Citation needed] In 1995 over 60,000 people attended and there were 70 buoys, bands, and costume groups and “imprecise drilling teams” on display.
In 2001, Fantasy Fest was estimated to bring in $ 35 million to the region each year. The event escalated into a ten-day celebration that includes balls, a parade, costume contests, anti-AIDS fundraising campaigns, body painting, drag queen contests, costume parties, alcohol, pet and neighborhood parades for the whole family.
The highlight of Fantasy Fest is its show featuring comic floats, including one that holds an annually elected Conch King and Queen. Floats can be very complex; Costs can range from $ 10,000 to $ 15,000. The buoy expenses are fully paid for by groups of participants (called krewes) and their sponsors. In recent years, the number of attendees at the Fantasy Fest has exceeded 100,000, or more than three times the population of the island itself
In October 2005, the event was postponed due to the devastation inflicted on the island by Hurricane Wilma; Instead of being held at its usual time near Halloween, it was moved to December and celebrated just before Christmas. The theme for that year was “Freaks, Geeks and Goddesses”.
Fantasy Fest has been compared to the New Orleans Mardi Gras and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. As with New Orleans Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Fantasy Fest tends to attract a lot of people to concentrate bars along Duval Street. Most of the event is geared towards adults, however, there are family friendly events. While public nudity is not technically permitted, body paint is usually very popular.
The King and Queen of Fantasy Fest are two annual titles awarded at the coronation, the fundraising service for AIDS community care, which mark the official start of the event. Residents of Key West, Florida, the King and Queen selected through an 8-week fundraising campaign.
Their royal court subsequently consisted of fellow candidates who were not equally combined, but still dubbed the Duke and Duchess (and rare example, Prince and Princess). [Citation needed] For 8 weeks, these candidates served as ambassadors for AIDS Aid, a nonprofit agency that has helped people with HIV / AIDS in the keys since 1986.
A hugely diverse range of events are individually organized by the candidates, as well as All-Candidate events that unite the campaigns, including a tournament in the “America Idol” singing competition, the wild Sunday BINGO contest, the Saturday Red Shirt Run in September and mixers in Familiar island places.
The royal court, their support staff, and other major agency backers all appear prominently at evening in the Duval Street Parade on a specially designed buoy to highlight their financial accomplishments.
Since its inception, the Royal Competition of Fantasy Fest has grossed over $ 4,593,645.00. In 2016, candidates raised more than $ 368,330.00 – the largest amount ever for a 4-candidate contest.