Hurricane Irma hurt tourism in the Florida Keys, but Key West reopened to visitors fairly quickly. With Fantasy Fest, an iconic annual event, the city gets to show tourists that it is back on its feet.
The 10-day schedule of masquerade balls, parties and costume competitions begins Friday.
Conceived in 1979 to attract visitors, the festival traditionally brings about $30 million to the Keys each year. Its impact on the tourism-based economy, which employs about 50 percent of the local workforce, is particularly important this year, as recovery continues after Irma’s Sept. 10 passage through the island chain.
Themed “Time Travel Unravels,” the festival will feature events including a costume contest for pets, the exotic Headdress Ball and a masquerade march beginning at the Key West cemetery.
The festival’s highlight is an Oct. 28th evening parade expected to draw tens of thousands of revelers.
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Photo credit: In this photo from 2015, people and their dogs dresses as space creatures take part in the Fantasy Fest Masquerade March in Key West. Tourism officials from the Florida Keys are hoping this year's 10-day event will bring tourists back after Hurricane Irma struck in September. Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Bureau via Associated Press