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KEY WEST (CBSMiami/FKNB) — Key West’s exotic Fantasy Fest has begun, launching a packed schedule of masquerades, parties and costume contests that continues through November 1st.

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At the kickoff Coronation Ball late Friday, island residents Mark Watson and Jodyrae Campbell were crowned festival king and queen. Four royal candidates campaigned by raising money for the Florida Keys’ AIDS Help organization, garnering $173,075.

“I never dreamed I would be king of Fantasy Fest,” Watson, a Key West entertainer and bartender, said Saturday.  “It’s just a surreal moment and I know I cried (when crowned).”

2015 Key West Fantsy Fest Queen Jodyrae Campbell, left, and King Mark Watson. (Photo by Pete Arnow)

2015 Key West Fantasy Fest Queen Jodyrae Campbell, left, and King Mark Watson. (Photo by Pete Arnow)

Themed “All Hallows Intergalactic Freak Show,” Fantasy Fest features more than 50 events including a costume competition for pets and a masquerade march beginning at the local cemetery.

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The highlight event is an Oct. 31st, Halloween night grand parade with costumed marching groups, bands and lavish motorized floats. Activities are to conclude Sunday, Nov. 1, with a Children’s Day fair in a local park.

Fantasy Fest debuted in 1979 to boost tourism during a slow period. Now, tourism officials said, it brings approximately $30 million in annual revenues to the Florida Keys.

Officials added that a few rooms in Key West remain for the festival’s final days, but urged visitors to make reservations before traveling for events. Additional accommodations are available in other regions of the Keys.

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