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October 22, 2012

Fantasy Fest costume parties begin

The masked balls, parties and costume competitions of Fantasy Fest are under way in Key West.

The masked balls, parties and costume competitions of Fantasy Fest are under way in Key West.

The 10-day festival began Friday night at a coronation ball where locals Mark Patterson and Liz Ketcham were crowned king and queen. Aspiring royals campaigned by raising money for the Florida Keys’ AIDS Help organization. They collected nearly $142,000.

Fantasy Fest culminates Oct. 27 with a nighttime parade featuring costumed marching groups, Caribbean bands and floats.

This year’s theme, “A-Conch-Alypse,” spoofs an ancient apocalypse prophecy. The Florida Keys island chain was nicknamed the “Conch Republic” after a tongue-in-cheek secession from the U.S. in 1982.

Officials say the colorful annual event has a $30 million impact in the Keys. The first Fantasy Fest was in 1979.

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