KEY WEST (CBS4/FKNB) – It’s time for grown men in masks & capes, women in body paint and cute little dogs in tutus to strut their stuff on Duval Street in Key West.

The city’s annual Fantasy Fest kicked off Friday. Themed “Super Heroes, Villains… & Beyond,” the 2013 festival features 10 days of masquerade balls, costume contests, elaborate parties and street fairs, all climaxing in an epic grand parade on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, who on Sept. 2 became the first person to swim from Cuba to Key West without a shark cage, is to lead the parade on a float decorated to commemorate her swim.

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

Upcoming highlight events include the exotic Headdress Ball, a costume contest for pets and their people, and a high-spirited masquerade march starting at the Key West Cemetery.

The festival’s traditional highlight, the Oct. 26 Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest Parade down Whitehead and Duval streets, typically draws more than 60,000 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 making reservations before traveling to the festival.

The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.


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