Invasion of the Lionfish
November 8, 2011
* Photo by Sheelman
Invasion of the Lionfish
The main event of Fantasy Fest each year is the annual Saturday night parade and for the past fifteen years or so, Kathy & I have joined our friends Rick, Steve, Hutch (and for many years David) in building a series of floats to enter in the big parade. Each year we try to come up with ideas and creations that capture the spirit of the theme, while at the same time capturing the somewhat roguish and rebellious nature of the creators. They are always massive undertakings and this year Hutch and Rick led the way in the creation and building of the Invasion of the Lionfish float.
Rick & Steve
There are still a few of us old timers who have been around since back in the beginning of the float building efforts, but each year there seem to be hundreds of new young and happy faces joining our group. This year may have been one of the largest crowds for our group ever as we had upwards of two hundred people joining our float dressed up as Lionfish and walking or riding on the float.
I was there with somewhat of a heavy heart, the passing of my friend Matt had me scheduled to fly to Indianapolis to attend his memorial early Sunday morning. We were also missing one of our long-time friends and float participants Melissa Jean who is recovering from brain surgery and was not able to participate. In honor of my friends I wore a RIP Matt insignia on the front of my costume and a small heart with the initials MJ on it on the back. It was just a small reminder that while I was participating in the Fantasy Fest madness, my heart was with my friends.
One of my favorite parts of the entire process is the time prior to the start of the parade in the float marshalling area. Everyone is in buoyant spirits. There is also time to walk around and see friends on other floats which is important because we really don’t get to see the parade much at all. The setting sun makes everything glow in the sweet light and the sense of anticipation is high, everyone is mostly sober as well- something that can not be said as the parade gets underway.
Fantasy Fest Video Hi-lights
Our float looked awesome and once we actually got moving, it was an incredible sight to see this mass of Lionfish moving down the street. Our costumes are all created using the same basic template, with each individual allowed to show their own creativity with the upgrades and refinements as they see fit. This allows for us to readily be identified as being part of our group, yet creates a wide range of creative diversity as each person brings their own flair to their costume.
Lionfish have become a major issue here in the Keys and throughout the Caribbean as they are an invasive exotic species that have very few natural predators and thus have become overpopulating our reefs, decimating some other local fish and even lobster populations with their voracious appetites. They make for a topical and tropical subject matter for the float and people responded with loud cheers as we began along the parade route.
Steve, Rick & Michael
It was probably the most enthusiastic crowd response that any of our floats have ever generated and we have had a number of fantastic floats – even capturing the Grand Prize a couple of times. People really seemed enamored of our float and costumes and we really were an impressive sight as we made our way down Whitehead Street.
Todd & Lisa
George & Carla
The parade was great, the crowds lining the street were as big as I had seen in years and everyone seemed to be having an amazing time. The raunch factor from the previous couple of years seemed a little toned down and Fantasy Fest was back to its creative and fun old self. It was great to see such excitement back.
Chris & Erin
Josh & Bonnie
We made it through most of the parade without major incident, then about three quarters of the way through we were hit by a massive downpour. It was the first time in all my years of participating in Fantasy Fest parades that the main parade was impacted by rain. It didn’t seem to affect our group’s spirits much, but many of the cardboard costumes did not make it to the end, and the girls relying on body paint as their costume had some issues as well. We were sort of a bedraggled mess when we hit the judging stand, though I am not sure if that was a factor in the fact that our float only scored second place honors and missed out on the grand prize. Congrats to the winning entry, our friends from Big Pine and their spectacular Sea Monkeys float captured the Grand Prize.
Suzy Jo & Andy
We still had a great time, though for me personally it was tempered by a fairly heavy heart and thus for the first time perhaps ever, we opted to head home at the conclusion of the parade and not go out on the town to celebrate. Kathy & I are happy and proud to have participated again. Thanks so much to Hutch, Rick, Steve, our driver Bruce and to all those who helped create, build and participate in this years’ excellent effort.