For the first time, Fantasy Fest in Key West will be canceled

Fantasy Fest has drawn thousands to the small Key West community for decades, however, and for the first time, it will be canceled this year due to the risk of coronavirus transmission.

"With the changing Covid-19 regulations, increasing cases, and current CDC Guidelines, the world is anything but normal and predictable," according to a statement. "Together with the Festival’s Board of Directors, the City of Key West’s Mayor & Management we have agreed that the most responsible decision we can make is not to host Fantasy Fest in 2020."

Key West’s annual masking and costuming festival had been scheduled for Oct. 16-25, but festival director Nadene Grossman Orr said Thursday that the 41st edition will not be staged.

"For the first time in 41 years we will be unable to welcome our beloved Fantasy Fest merrymakers, glitter goddesses, leather clad lads, and costumed cohorts to our zany island for the most epic ten days of the year," a statement by the organizers read.

The festival was developed in 1979 to bolster off-season business in the tourism-based economy. It grew to generate some $30 million in annual revenues for the Florida Keys island chain.

“Since there will not be a Fantasy Fest 2020, we are concerned about how the island’s workers will be affected,” Grossman Orr said.

About half of the Florida Keys workforce is employed in tourism-related jobs, Keys tourism officials said.

To help, event organizers launched the Fantasy Fest Fund, which will raise money for those financially impacted by the coronavirus in the Florida Keys' tourism-driven community, specifically those in the service industry who would have benefited from Fantasy Fest.  

Organizers said they have their sets sight on Fantasy Fest 2021 and "can't wait to celebrate." 

The island chain reopened to visitors June 1 after being closed to nonresidents for some 10 weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19.