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September 25, 2019 – (Key West, FL).  Five Fantasy Fest Fun Facts to Get the ‘Royal Retrospective Party Started

No matter how many margaritas you might have imbibed during former Key West Fantasy Fests, the spectacle of creatively costumed people and a steady stream of Mardi Gras-like floats cannot easily be forgotten.  But how much do you actually know about this world-renowned island festival and some of the very important people associated with it?  Stroll over to the Custom House Museum at 281 Front Street from October 5 through October 20 and join Key West Art & Historical Society in celebrating Fantasy Fest’s regal history with the exhibit ‘Royal Retrospective: Forty Years of Fantasy Fest.’

Here are a few fun facts to help to help get the Royal Retrospective party started:

  1. Flashback: Cue the Tumble(sea)weeds. Prior to 1979, if you stood on the intersection of Front and Duval Streets during what is now Fantasy Fest week, it resembled a ghost town.  Joe Liskza, the then-President of the Tourist Development Association, had a simple idea that developed into what is now the busiest, most lucrative week for the island: an adult extravaganza of creative costuming, parades, libations and excitement.
  2. The Naked Truth behind the Altruism.Amid more than 50,000 painted and costumed party-goers that revel in Key West’s streets, bars, and restaurants is one very altruistic Fantasy Fest King and Queen couple, crowned for raising awareness and much-needed funds for AH of Monroe County, a non-profit, community-based organization that provides case–managed health care, affordable housing and housing assistance, food, counseling, support and other services for residents of the Florida Keys. “Candidates and their team of volunteers spend over eight weeks of their lives being ambassadors,” says Scott Prigden, Executive Director. It is a jam-packed two months of collaborating with local businesses to create and host special events in order to generate the candidate’s personal message – and money that provides treatments, housing, prevention, and research for those in need in our community.’
  3. A Multi-Million Dollar Idea.  Since 1989, AH of Monroe County (formerly AIDS Help of Monroe County) has facilitated this very important community fundraiser, selecting candidates dedicated to the cause.  In the 29 years of Fantasy Fest campaigns, candidates have raised more than $4 million dedicated to AIDS Help.  See a tally of each year’s fundraising efforts at the Custom House “Royal Retrospective” exhibit.
  4. Renegade Creativity.  Before a King or Queen candidate can even be considered, each must first raise two thousand dollars to show their commitment, which they can then use toward their campaign. Many of the koozies, t-shirts, bracelets, buttons, baubles, hats, fans, bumper stickers and other accoutrements that get their message out are showcased in the Society’s exhibit.
  1. A Passion for Posters.  Over the years, artists have responded to a call for Fantasy Fest poster art with an abundance of inspirations, some of which will be on display at the Royal Retrospective.

For more information, visit or contact curator Cori Convertito, Ph.D., at 305-295-6616 x112. Your Museums.  Your Community.  It takes an Island. 


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The exhibit, ‘A Royal Retrospective: Forty Years of Fantasy Fest’ will run Oct 5-20 at the Custom House Museum, 281 Front Street. Pictured here are 2006 Queen and King, Meta “Fizz” Rettew and the late, beloved Gregg McGrady. (Photo Contributed)