We bought our home in Key West in December of 2014 as our future retirement home. Since retirement is still a few years away (and getting further away for some reason) we initially decided we would rent our home. We rang in the New Year Key West style and then I stayed on at Bougainvillea Villa to prep it for the "rental market" for most of January. I know that January is a long way from October (when Fantasy Fest happens) but bear with me-I'll get there! While at the house for those weeks in January I discovered-wow-it's hot on our waterfront patio! It's sheltered from the prevailing north wind so while it might actually be pretty cool everywhere else, on my back deck it's HOT. A pool was clearly a neccessity. Arrangements were made, the house was blocked for the summer (and ultimately the early fall, since construction projects always take longer than planned) and as a result we did have a functioning pool, with a pool deck too, by early September. What we didn't have, as a result of the blocked months, were guests. So, what the heck, we went down in mid-October, and I just stayed on. A recently retired friend (lucky thing!) joined me right as Fantasy Fest was starting. Woo hoo-my first experience with Fantasy Fest!
The first event we attended was the Goombay Festival. It's a part of Fantasy Fest, but the family friendly part of Fantasy Fest. We walked the entire length of Petronia Street and back, partaking in some rum drinks served in coconuts and browsing the awesome local crafts (woven baskets, soaps etc) and great food vendors. A sign of what was to come was, literally, the sign that we saw that said "Family Friendly Event-No Nudity Allowed!"
Our next "event" was purely accidental. We knew it was happening but thought we got downtown too late to see it. "It" was the Zombie Bike Ride. We saw many of my neighbors riding their bikes towards downtown, dressed quite realistically as zombies. Apparently, it takes awhile to organize all those zombies because hours later, when we made it downtown and were on Duval, ready to go to Bliss on Petronia (spied during the Goombay Festival), we were stopped cold by the procession of zombies on bikes down Duval. There were a few folks who didn't bother with the costume-they got a thumbs down from us-but the majority of riders were impressive in their zombie-ness!
Monday found us on a quest for a super hero (or villain) outfit that included a tutu for the Heroes and Villains 5K that started at 6 pm that evening. As it happens, there is a children's toy store in Searstown, on North Roosevelt Blvd, that sells costumes during Fantasy Fest. It's quite interesting-the rest of the year it sells toys and looks quite innocuous and then BOOM late October it's full of sexy costumes and glitter gel! We put together our outfits, called a taxi and headed down to the Southernmost Hotel for the 5K start. Starting on time was NOT a priority but eventually the whole pack set off (my favorite was a family dressed as the Jamaican Bobsled Team-even the dog had an outfit), we set off at a brisk walk through the southeast end of town and finished well, given our ages and the fact that it was well past cocktail hour with no cocktails in hand. We remedied that quickly by grabbing some seats at the bar at the Southernmost Cafe (and bar) where there was an official dinner that we had not signed up to attend-but hey-as it turned out we were much better off paying for our own food at the bar. The bartender, noting the tutus (an essential part of Fantasy Fest attire even to novices like us), asked if we were going to attend the tutu party on Tuesday. Since the "tutu party" was not listed in the Official Guide to Nine Million Fantasy Fest Parties" we had no idea what he was talking about. Turns out Tuesday is "Tutu Tuesday" to the locals and the "Tutu Party" is the place to be, even though it is not advertised in any of the "official" Fantasy Fest information. Or maybe that's WHY it's not listed! Whichever, he gave us the heads up to don tutus and go to Mango's for the party the next night. We were somewhat dubious about the whole thing so we did go downtown the next night but I packed my tutu in the car; my friend did not. We got a front porch table at Grand Vin, a couple of nice glasses of wine and a great cheese plate and settled in to discuss our options early Tuesday evening. From our seats, we saw the most amazing procession go by. Turns out the local SPCA sponsors an "Ears and Tails" party on Tuesday night as well. You haven't seen anything until you've seen a much older gentleman in a flamingo outfit go by-especially when that outfit consists of a pink thong, some tennis shoes, a flamingo beak on the head and said gentleman is riding a bike. At this point we wished we'd bought tickets to the Ears and Tails party too but we were DEFINITELY not going to miss the Tutu party. I fetched my tutu outfit from the car and put it on in the restroom at Grand Vin and my friend bought her second tutu from a shop on Duval, since we were warned that it didn't matter how much money we offered, we were NOT getting in to the tutu party without a tutu.
Well, wow! We had such a great time at the tutu party! There was a $20 cover but it was so worth it! There was a band playing downstairs and a DJ playing upstairs (with fog, and curtains and a very club atmosphere) and so many amazing outfits to be seen! Most amazing was the man (who came with his wife) wearing MY EXACT TUTU-red plaid! He was much better dressed though as he'd added a bustier, fishnet hose and high heels. I just wore flip-flops and a camisole. We had a fantastic time. Eventually we had our hands stamped and we headed off for Tony's for the well advertised "Plaid Party". The closer we got, the crazier things we saw! And the people were wearing much less, too. By the time we got to Tony's, Duval was blocked off by the police and half the people were barely dressed. We couldn't even get inside Tony's to get a drink. We had a look around, absorbed the sights of the tourist side of Fantasy Fest and then headed back to Mango's.
Unfortunately, my friend left the next day and that was the end of my Fantasy Fest for 2015-definitely not an event for me to experience on my own. I was determined to come back to the next Fantasy Fest though-and bring a more sizable crowd that could stay for the whole week. Which in fact I did-but that's a whole other story!