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The organizers of Key West’s Fantasy Fest costuming and masking festival announced today that the 2020 festival, originally scheduled Oct. 16-25, would be canceled to protect against the potential spread of COVID-19.

The festival typically draws some 60,000 people to Key West’s Duval Street for its highlight parade, as well as several thousand for its annual Masquerade March, Zombie Bike Ride, street fair and costume competitions.

“With the changing COVID-19 regulations, increasing cases and current CDC guidelines, we have agreed that the most responsible decision we can make is not to host Fantasy Fest in 2020,” said Nadene Grossman Orr, director of the 10-day festival in a press statement.

“This was a joint decision with our board of directors and Key West city officials, but it was not an easy one since our island community and its workforce depend on revenue generated during Fantasy Fest,” added Grossman Orr.

key west's fantasy fest
Fantasy Fest 2019. (Photo courtesy of The Florida Keys.)

The festival was established in 1979 to increase tourism during the typically slow fall season. It quickly grew to become a signature event for Key West and has earned international acclaim for its pageantry, lavish parade floats and free-spirited gatherings of costumed attendees.

According to Florida Keys tourism officials, Fantasy Fest typically results in some $30 million in annual revenues for the island chain, where nearly 50 percent of the local workforce is employed in tourism-related businesses.

The Keys’ tourism-based economy and workers have already been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis because the island chain was closed to visitors from March 22 through June 1 in an effort to slow the virus’ spread.

Grossman Orr said festival organizers have created the Fantasy Fest Fund, which will work with community-based organizations to raise money for distribution to local workers in need.

Fantasy Fest 2021 is scheduled for Oct. 22-31, 2021.

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