“I’m actually on the TDC website as part of Fantasy Fest. This year I’m going as a rooster. I’m supposed to be a crazy, Key West rooster!”

Realtor Dean Townsend is flocking to the can’t miss Fantasy Fest event with the rest of the islanders, professionals, stay-at-home moms, zombies, creatures, and politico junkies perhaps insane from Election 2010— the Masquerade March, known to us islanders simply as: the local’s parade!

“I was in the first parade. There was about 50 people,” recalls Townsend’s colleague and fellow realtor, Kent Ducote. “I’m not sure who exactly started this. We start at the cemetery and march.”

The crowd of costumed Key Westers splits. One route of revelers raises the roofs on Truman Avenue the other parades frolicks with friends down Fleming Street.

“We take Fleming,” admits the naked realtor. “There are more people sitting out with cocktails!”

Thirst-quenchers and beads are provided at B&Bs, private homes, porches, and patios! Sabrina Acevedo is still anxious about what her friends will decide is their strategy for 2010. This realtor doesn’t necessarily stick to the Fantasy Fest authentic theme and is currently thinking more along the lines of the slightly psychotic Doctor Seuss “Cat and the Hat” characters. 

“Not just the cat, but the whole line of characters. I keep telling them to hurry up and decide so we can get costumes! Last year I was sick, but this is definitely the best part about Fantasy Fest. I don’t even plan on hitting the parade on Saturday night. Friday is too much fun. We all end up on Duval for the street fair! There was the one year I was pregnant. I went as a pregnant nun. The year after we were all schoolgirls.”

The Fantasy Fest Street Fair is Duval’s mile-long, eater-tainment extravaganza featuring arts, crafts, food vendors, lively libations, and costumed frivolity. No one has a memory strong enough to remember why the trek started at the cemetery.

The reason is as crystal clear as your favorite triple-distilled Russian vodka as to why the locals make a mad dash to the Masquerade March. 801’s Paul Doucette doesn’t have a clue how or why this pre-parade marched into the line-up of festivities. Just that he’s strolled in step with his friends for seven years.

“I always walk with a group of like twelve from La te da and Bourbon Street, and 801. I’ve been Freddie Krueger, Gumby… a drag queen.”

Also hitting the event with at least a half dozen friends is Rick Mackenzie of Local Awards and Engraving.

“I have a couple of friends from last year coming and we’ve recruited new ones! There are thousands of costumed people and they give you free drinks through the neighborhoods. It’s a tremendous time. When I first started marching six years ago, I didn’t realize what a big deal this was. The mood is so festive!”

For 2010 Mackenzie will be dressed as a tie-dyed terrorist.

“I’ll be draping them all over myself hoping they just flop in the breeze. Two years ago I was Michael Phelps with eight medals. We have them laying all over the workplace, so I thought why not!”

His colleague in the back with Category 5 Designs and Signs, Kimball Ingram will be a parking attendant dressed as a young professional. After he sells the eight parking spots at his father’s downtown office, he’ll turn into an inconspicuous English tourist with plenty of cash to blow on Duval. Attorney Jerry Sanders scored an umpire uniform complete with a blind walking stick and sunglasses. The get-up reminds him of times at the Braves’ stadium in Atlanta where “Three Blind Mice,” played over the sound-system during bad calls. The gents at Bella on Simonton are thinking skeletons and hatchets to go with their fab hair. David Vinson and his partner in life and in business Robert have made every single Fantasy Fest since the event hit the calendar in 1968. They take the Truman route whether they’re dressed as vampires or clowns.

“There’s always fake blood and band-aids!”

The only pain is planning in paradise. But, as from the start of the Masquerade March, you can count on Ducote and Dean to be sippin’ on some jungle juice strolling down Fleming Street with their colleagues and friends with them. No longer realtors, but an incredible, green beast from Marvel comics.

“It’ll take an hour to an hour and a half to get painted. One year took two hours,” reminds our TDC website model.   

“Where else can you do something like this,” asks Mackenzie. “I love it. I would rather miss the main parade!”

Round up your friends now, or go make some new ones! The Masquerade March is set for Friday, October 29. Meet at the Key West Cemetery on – Street or join the mad march anywhere along the two routes.

What year did fantasy fest start?

What year did the Masquerade March happen?

Are there any wrong costumes?



Local Awards and Engraving’s Rick Mackenzie as “Zebra Man!”



School girls Sabrina Acevedo and Tiffany Balbuena following the 2008 parade.



The Naked Realtor, Dean Townsend. “The event beckons our individuality.”





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