No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Friday, November 09, 2018

“And Still Sometimes Remember, The Masquerade’s Forever. “- Berlin

October 27, 2018



“And Still Sometimes Remember
The Masquerade’s Forever. “- Berlin

There is probably no event throughout the entire year that totally captures the wild, funny, fun, creative, zany, wacky genius that is the community of Key West than the annual Fantasy Fest Masquerade March. There are literally thousands of people dressed up and marching the route which winds for a couple of miles through the streets of Old Town on Fantasy Fest Friday. Thousands more line the route, often serving up free drinks and more to those passing by.




Liz and Nicole

But for my money what makes the event so freaking unique and wonderful is the amount of local people who participate. For many locals, this is the Fantasy Fest event that they participate in and while there are a number of tourist as well, you literally cannot walk more than a few feet without running in to someone you know who is either dressed up and participating or watching from the sidewalk as the masses pass by.




David and Martha

Not only are there a lot of local participants, there are always a number of costumes that are inside jokes for locals as people dress up in costumes that only locals will understand. Whether the white fly invasion of a couple of years ago, the chicken and iguana problems, people dressing up as this year’s hot-button invasive Royal Poiciana Worm or as hurricane debris there are always a number of folks who focus on costumes specifically designed for locals to enjoy.


Susan, Nadene and Howard



Nowhere was this more apparent than in what was probably my favorite costume(s) of the week when my friends the Nelsons dressed up as Farmer Jeanne from the Monroe County Animal Farm. Jeanne is a local celebrity in that she often appears at events and in parades along with the Farm’s mascot, Mo the Sloth. In this clever costuming choice, there was a Jeanne lookalike along with her husband (a Monroe county inmate) and their kids dressed as sloths. It was genius and looked pretty dead on, yet made little sense to anyone not from here and familiar with the wonderful animal farm.



Summer and Bruce


Another costumed group that I loved was a group dressed up like the panelists from that old 70s TV game show, Match Game. They dressed and looked remarkably like those original cast members, yet anyone under the age of 50 I am sure had no freaking clue what they were supposed to be. Brilliant I tell you and really, really funny for those of us who recall that daytime TV staple.

Leigh and Matt 

Erin, Carolyn and Wendy

With all the stops we made, including prolonged stops at parties at the Artist House and at our friend’s Betsy and Eric’s house, it took us over three hours to complete the march. We started at the very beginning of the march and ended up at the very end with the motorcycle cops impatiently trying to herd the last few folks along and reopen the streets.



Once we got to Duval Street it was as packed as ever, with the street fair still going strong and the crowd from the march joining in with the thousands already there just enjoying the fun. It was a great afternoon and evening and one of the more fun marchs that I can recall in the last 28 that I have participated in, I got a ton of great photos, saw a lot of friends and amazing costumes and enjoyed the amazing costumes that Kathy had made for us.




There was only one sad downside, I stayed out later than Kathy to take photos and when I was walking back to my bike parked by the cemetery, a group of three teenage boys shouted out anti-gay slurs at me as I was crossing Simonton Street, assuming I guess that since I was wearing a Chinese dress that I must be gay. I was burning mad, not so much because I cared so much about what anyone said about me, but because it reminded me of the sick hatred and horror that so many of my fellow Citizens have to deal with on a regular basis. It is probably just as well that they were passing too fast for me to actually engage them, or it may have had an even uglier ending, but it certainly put a huge damper on what was otherwise about a perfect Fantasy Fest day.

“The painted faces on the street…” –Berlin

October 27, 2018



“The painted faces on the street…” –Berlin

As the Final weekend of the 2018 Fantasy Fest celebration arrived, anticipation was at a fever pitch. The week and every event that I had attended had gone about as perfectly as one could hope and things were winding down and gearing up for a huge finish at the same time. Friday brings about one of the best attended, most fun, most creative event of the week with the annual Masquerade March or as many simply call it, “The Local’s Parade”.



Caitlin and Effie

It got this name because for years and to this day, it is probably the event that draws the most local participation, both as people dressed up and participating in the parade and those who line the neighborhood streets to watch it as it passes on its way down to Duval Street and the heart of downtown. It is not exactly totally family friendly, but it also is not the totally adult situation that is found downtown in the Fantasy Zone either and you see a number of kids and families both in the parade and along the route as well.


The day begins with the opening of the Fantasy Fest Street Fair which lines the majority of Duval Street starting at noon and going on till at least 10 PM. The line-up of vendors selling all manner of things as well as a huge variety of food and beverage sellers as well. Duval Street is turned in to a promenade with thousands of costumed people shopping, strolling, drinking and dancing at certain locations like in front of Duval Street bars like 801 Bourbon Street.

Cale and Effie 

Jim, Mary-Beth and Heidi

Like most of the Fantasy Fest events, the street fair was especially nice this year with many cool vendors and some delicious food offerings well beyond the standard street fair food. I have always enjoyed attending the street fair as it is fun to peruse the vendors and to see so many wacky costumes as people are out all day and late into the night along Duval Street.

The Nelson family 

The Street fair is the final destination of the masquerade march as the parade winds through Old Town from its beginning near the cemetery until finally emptying out on to Duval, where the literally thousands of people who take part in the march join the masses already assembled to make one giant party on Duval just after the sun sets.

The parade, which in previous years has diverged in two separate directions has condensed to a single route, which to me has always been the most prominent route as it heads from the cemetery to Fleming then down Fleming to Simonton Street over to Olivia then down to merge onto Duval. Since there was only a single route the parade seemed much larger and longer as the thousands of costumed revelers all headed off in the same direction, meaning the parade got strung out pretty well and took almost three hours to completely pass by. 


Rafael and Alex

There are also a ton of private viewing parties as well as the normal guest house stops involved where the participants can stop for free drinks and jello shots along the way. It seemed to me that there were way more people watching this year as well and way more private parties. Almost every block along the route, we would see friends and get to stop at a number of parties for food, drinks and the all-important restrooms.


There were so many costumes that really took the theme and ran with it, creating masterful costumes that captured the “Games We Play” theme. Kathy created wonderful costumes for the two of us as we dressed up as the game Chinese Checkers and through in a political twist as “Chinese Trade War Checkers”.  I was a little concerned that some might view our costumes as some sort of cultural appropriation, but they turned out great and we were careful to be respectful and not demeaning in our interpretation.



I think we achieved that as people seemed to love the costumes, with the few Chinese and Asian people we encountered seemingly even more interested in getting photographed with us. We even were photographed and appeared in the Key West Citizen’s coverage of the event, which I thought was pretty cool.