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September 23, 2016— (Key West, FL).  Key West Art & Historical Society Celebrates Fantasy Fest Altruism and the Candidates Behind it

Brace yourselves—it’s that time of year again, where 50,000 costumed (or semi-costumed) revelers arrive to party hardy, Fantasy Fest style. The Key West Art & Historical Society joins in on the carousing by paying homage to the altruism of the world-renowned island festival that provides integral funds for AIDS Help with a new exhibit titled Fantasy Island, which runs October 7th – 30th,  and with Royal Retrospective:  A Look Back at the Kings & Queens of Fantasy Fest, a special, all-candidate AIDS Help fundraiser celebration to take place Thursday, October 20th from 6pm-8pm.

The brainchild of Frank Romano, Joe Liszka, Tony Falcone, and Bill Conkle, Fantasy Fest was created in 1979 as a remedy to boost tourism with a two-day celebration and parade. Over the decades, it has grown into a ten-day, colorful extravaganza featuring balls, parties, and parades, culminating with an immense, Mardi-Gras style parade helmed by that year’s Fantasy Fest King and Queen— a title won by the candidate who has raised the most money for AIDS Help.

“There are good, wholesome, altruistic elements of Fantasy Fest and we are here to celebrate that,” says Cori Convertito, PhD, Key West Art & Historical Society Curator. “The exhibit and the retrospective fundraiser are celebrations of all of the candidates that have participated, and all they’ve done for Key West and AIDS Help.”

These fundraising efforts often begin several months prior to the coronation, involving teams of people in it for the cause.

“When I called to ask for campaign help from an acquaintance, he told me that he wouldn’t be alive without AIDS Help, which helps him with his insurance premiums,” says Kristen Livengood, a candidate for this year’s Fantasy Fest Queen.   “It’s an amazing organization, and if I can help someone live by throwing a couple of fun parties and raising money, then it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

The Fantasy Island exhibit is co-curated with Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit curator Dennis Beaver and will focus on the themes from each year’s celebration via the annual Fantasy Fest posters, digital photographs of the former Kings and Queens, the fundraising efforts on behalf of AIDS Help, and the diverse objects and images that make Key West the place to be each October.  A Royal Restrospective:  a Look Back at the Kings & Queens of Fantasy Fest aims to be “a reunion of sorts” says Convertito, and encourages former kings and queens to join in on the all-candidate AIDS Help fundraiser celebration featuring the exhibit, a cash bar, and appetizers.

“We hope everyone will come, reminisce, learn, and celebrate such a wonderful community event,” says Convertito.

For more information, contact curator Cori Convertito, PhD at or 305.295.6616 x112. Your Museums.  Your Community.  It takes an Island.


Joe Liszka (left) and Frank Romano, pictured here in the year 2000 Fantasy Fest parade, cooked up the now world-renowned annual revelry with cohorts Tony Falcone and Bill Conkle as a remedy to off-season toursim doldrums.