KEY WEST (CBSMiami/FKNB) — Key West’s annual Fantasy Fest masking and costuming celebration begins Friday, kicking off 10 days of masquerade parties, elaborate costume contests, street fairs, and festivities — all climaxing in a spectacular grand parade.

Now in its 40th year, Fantasy Fest was conceived to bolster tourism during a traditionally slow time of year. It has grown to be internationally recognized for its pageantry and creative spirit.

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“In Key West we’re known for being zany and quirky and this festival, Fantasy Fest, encompasses all of that,” said event director Nadene Grossman Orr.

The 2019 festival is themed “In Tune But … Off Key,” with participants encouraged to design costumes and parade floats to salute all things musical — from rock and reggae to kids’ singalong ditties and campy Broadway show tunes.

“It’s almost 100 events — all different kinds of themed parties, costume celebrations, masquerade marches, parades — we’ve got something for everybody,” said Grossman Orr.

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Upcoming standouts include the Sunday evening Zombie Bike Ride, a costume contest for pets and their people, the exotic Headdress Ball and a high-spirited masquerade march starting next Friday at the Key West Cemetery.

Saturday night, Oct. 26, Fantasy Fest’s highlight parade is to travel through Key West’s historic downtown. The procession typically draws tens of thousands of spectators to applaud its costumed marching groups, street dancers, bands and lavishly decorated motorized floats.

Florida Keys tourism officials advise that hotel rooms are still available, but suggest attendees make reservations before traveling to Fantasy Fest.

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