Key West’s signature and most popular festival bursts onto the scene with its fortieth year of creative masterpieces and whimsical debauchery. This year’s theme, In Tune But Off Key, ushers in a season full of musical jaunts and genre-bending displays. Taking place within the first half of the week-long celebration, here are five events you won’t want to miss.
Lost Boy Creations’ Goombay Bash
225 Petronia St.
Oct. 18th & 19th | 3PM
The second annual Goombay Bash presented by local artist, Matt Atkinson, capitalizes on a year of continued awareness for this growing brand and art studio. Last year’s festivities were a sleeper hit! Nestled in the heart of a cozy Bahama Village courtyard, no one knew what to expect. The casual, mostly local-attended event morphed into a panorama of live art, soulful musical performances, and beer straight out of the tub. It is perhaps the most intimate event of the festival that facilitates meeting so many island personalities in a casual setting. This time around, the double day offerings will include national musical samplings of Key West’s Chris Toler, Seattle’s Sol and Miami’s Xperimento. Keep your eye on Lost Boy. It’s gaining traction.
What to look for: Limited edition merchandise featuring the adorable top hat wearing surfboard aficionado mascot.
Zombie Bike Ride
Fort East Martello
Oct. 20th | 6PM
Night walkers. Zombie disco divas. Political figures who survive the brain eating hordes because they have no brains. A terrifying albeit hilarious spectrum of your favorite characters and historical figures is on full display in their zombified form. Bicycles, trikes, kinetic creations, and even Amish carriages propel hundreds of masqueraders down US1 and into downtown Key West. It feels like a massive Halloween block party in the lead up as most of the island’s locals descend on the historical Fort East Mortello for entertainment and drinks.
What to look for: Elaborate kinetic sculptures peddled by zombie teams.
A Green Parrot Beatles Tribute
601 Whitehead St. | The Green Parrot
Oct. 21st | 5.30PM 9PM 11PM
This legendary bar hosts performers Chris Thomas, Tony Baltimore, Oren Polak, and Hiram Garzaro as they re-create a Fab Four Show with THE BEATLE BAND, All You Need is Love. You don’t have to be a Beatles aficionado – I’m certainly not – to appreciate that this musical bash will likely evolve into a sixties fashion show complete with delightfully terrible Lennon-McCartney lookalikes. Given Key West’s eternal sunshine and musical excellence, it’s quite likely that a summer of love will be revived this night of the festival.
What to look for: Musician Tony Baltimore. A local gem who will regale you with fascinating tales and help you close the bar down.
301 Whitehead St. | First Flight
Oct. 21st | 8PM
Leather. Masks. Boots. Furry tails. Any and all fetish attire are welcome at one of Fantasy Fest’s last remaining truly kinky events. Organized in consultation with the Florida Keys’ most active munch group, subs, doms, and everyone in-between gather for an electrifying exploration of First Flight’s multilayered complex. You can expect this one to be filled up early on. Last year was so widely attended that there was a “one in-one out” policy for the better part of an hour. Also, be sure to respect everyone’s privacy at this event. Not all of us are ready for our nosy colleagues to see us collared and walking on all fours.
What to look for: Electrostimulation. Surprisingly, good business contacts. Brand new subs to do your bidding.
423 Caroline St. | General Horseplay
Oct. 22nd | 7PM
No tutu, no entry! The fabulous dress code works to level the playing field by ensuring that everyone leans into the spirit of absurdity. The 11th annual event is back with the theme of Magic! Sprawled across four complexes – including a gentleman’s club and outdoor courtyard – the evening promises parties within a party. Each interconnected venue provides a different DJ, crowd, and explosion of tulle. Last year, all three attempts to retire for the night were squashed by my desire to return to the complex and discover something new. It was easily one of the city’s most exhilarating events. Will they be able to top last year?
What to look for: Celebrities and popular local personalities. Stripper poles.