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Fantasy Fest: getting nekkid in Key West

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

03/10/2014

Here we are, eight months from Key West’s annual October Fantasy Fest and, right on schedule, we’re talking about naked.

More to the point, the definition of naked.

Let’s step aside for a moment to bring those who’ve never heard of Fantasy Fest to the party. Cash registers don’t ring much in October. It’s the tail end of summer and the hurricane season. The weather’s nice in the North lands and snowbirds are planning turkey day, not a trip to the island. October is a locals month, but since we tend to spend our money at Publix on bread and eggs, and not along Duval Street, there’s that cash register problem.

Back in 1978 (Halloween Day to be specific), the Tourist Development Association of Monroe County did what Key West does oh so well. It pulled a 10-day party and parade from thin air. And the cash registers clanged happily.

Fantasy Fest is a bacchanalian extravaganza for adults. Think Mardi Gras, beads and all, but with margaritas and great weather. It’s that warm sunshine that separates Mardi Gras from Fantasy Fest — and separates Fantasy Fest celebrators from their clothes.

For once a year, ostensibly only in the designated fest areas (loosely defined as Duval Street north of Truman) one can let the boobs bounce free and the privates dangle. Humans of the push-the-limits variety turned Fantasy Fest into a game of strip poker. Each year a couple more pieces of clothing were left in the hotel room.

Until, well, it got kinda gross. That’s when the city fathers and a couple of mothers allowed as how all that skin needed to be disguised. Body paint. Now there’s a solution. One couldn’t simply wander around as God made you. Nope, go for the top-to-toe (and don’t forget the dangles) body paint.

That sorta worked, but I’ve gotta tell you that even elegant body paint does little for the aging saggies of leading edge baby boomers. (Google naked pictures of Fantasy Fest if you’re feeling wicked and don’t mind NSA or your boss checking your browser.)

This year there’s a city commission proposal that boobs must have pasties. No more free bounce. There seems not to be a solution to dangling privates, though one guy last October tied a small plastic hat to his stuff as he strolled along Duval at the Saturday night parade. Small was the operative adjective there.

Truth is, of the tens of thousands who flood Key West for Halloween, all but a handful of hundreds have the good sense to keep their clothes on. The ones who prefer open air get chuckled over, pointed at and forgotten unless they made the terrible mistake of doing selfies for social media.

But, as sure as it is Spring, the town gets exercised each year over how much, if any, nudity is appropriate for Fantasy Fest. Is it OK for a guy to wear a teensy-tiny thong and plant his butt on the bar’s counter stool? If women must wear pasties up top, how about the guys with serious man boobs? And, what in the world does one do about dangles?

No shirt, no shorts, no shoes, no service. Seems pretty simple. As for the five hours of parade night? Stay home if stupid humans leave you breathless. Because as long as the cash registers ring — and for 35 years they have — there will be nekkid dangles at Fantasy Fest.

 

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Linda Grist Cunningham

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

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