KEY WEST (CBSMiami) — By Saturday afternoon, the grand parade was well underway in Key West.
But while the weekend is all about this Conch Republic and pumping some much-needed money back into the local economy, elsewhere on the islands are still scrambling to get back to normal.
Driving through the Keys you’ll see fewer piles of debris on the sides of the road… until, all of a sudden, there is nothing but stacks of it. On Big Pine Key, one of the hardest hit communities from Hurricane Irma, there are small pockets of activity.
“There was the muck,” said John Wilson. “Everything was covered with slimy green muck.”
Wilson has some buddies helping him repair his property.
“Getting a contractor, or anybody, even a laborer, has been real tough,” he said. “Which is surprising. I would have thought after the storm that we’d have a horde of laborers from Miami.”
He’s also surprised by the prices workers are charging.
“That’s capitalism. If they can get the money, they’ll get it,” he acknowledged.
Elsewhere in Big Pine Key, there are piles of what used to be homes and evidence of Irma’s destructive force. Some residents said they’re either awaiting insurance money or arguing with their insurance company over coverage.
One resident said coverage was so expensive they couldn’t afford it and will pay for repairs out of their pocket.
However, a few dozen miles south in Key West, it’s a different scene. One of the most anticipated events of the year — Fantasy Fest — is in full swing with wild costumes and people enjoying the only-in-Key-West vibe.
Friday night’s Masquerade March set the tone for Saturday’s grand parade. Many said they specifically wanted to attend this year’s Fest to help the local economy.
“My wife did say, bring it back to the locals,” Wilson said
And that’s exactly what business owners and workers want to hear.
“To see the support coming down here, and we have repeat customers and friends, and to see them having a good time and giving us the support, is huge,” he continued.
Another community that took a hit is Marathon. City officials hope to have all the debris off the roads by Thanksgiving.
And their biggest challenge is housing. FEMA is working to bring in trailers and they’ve got some other programs to try to deal with displaced residents.
As for Key West, the party is in full swing.