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Thousands Meet In Key West For Fantasy Fest

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Dave Hutchinson airbrushes a huge lionfish Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, in Key West, Fla. The fish replica is slated to roll down Key West's Duval Street in a Saturday, Oct. 29, parade that is to highlight the island city's annual 10-day Fantasy Fest costuming and masking festival that began Friday, Oct. 21. (Source: Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)

Dave Hutchinson airbrushes a huge lionfish Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, in Key West, Fla. The fish replica is slated to roll down Key West’s Duval Street in a Saturday, Oct. 29, parade that is to highlight the island city’s annual 10-day Fantasy Fest costuming and masking festival that began Friday, Oct. 21. (Source: Rob O’Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)

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KEY WEST (CBSMiami)- The wet weather went away with perfect timing as Key West’s wacky Fantasy Fest celebration is underway.

The event features 10 days of masking and costuming balls, lively street parties and costume contests for those who want to make a splash in the island city.

Themed “Aquatic-A-Frolic,” the annual festival continues through Sunday, Oct. 30, with several dozen individual events.

Fantasy Fest began more than 30 years ago and is now internationally recognized for its uninhibited flair and lighthearted spirit. Participants are encouraged to shed their real-world personas and don masks and costumes that express their inner fantasies.

“During Fantasy Fest, people come from all over the world,” said festival staffer Anna Gaston. “It’s a time to let loose and be yourself and dress up in fun costumes and just go crazy and have a good time.”

Kick-off events included Saturday’s Goombay street party, where attendees enjoy island-style food, crafts and music in Key West’s historic Bahama Village.

Upcoming festival standouts include a costume contest for pets and their people, flamboyant Headdress Ball, exotic Pretenders in Paradise beachside costume competition and a masquerade march starting at the Key West Cemetery.

The festival’s traditional highlight, scheduled Saturday night, Oct. 29, is the Fantasy Fest Parade down Whitehead and Duval streets. The procession typically draws more than 50,000 revelers to applaud its costumed marching groups, street dancers, bands and lavishly decorated motorized floats.

Accommodations are still available for Fantasy Fest, but tourism officials stress people should make reservations before traveling to the festival.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Andy Newman of the Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.)

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