Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to the Keys without a shark cage, but is she brave enough for Duval Street? Or Ron Jeremy?
Nyad will serve as grand marshal of Key West's Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest Parade on Oct. 26, a lively procession that highlights the island city's 10-day Fantasy Fest Oct. 18-27, this year themed "Super Heroes, Villains... & Beyond."
Fantasy Fest director Linda O'Brien says Nyad’s recent 111-mile Florida Straits swim at age 64 makes her the perfect choice: "The physical and mental strength she displayed during her swim prove she's a real-life superhero."
Nyad will lead the famed parade on a float decorated to commemorate her marathon swim, one of more than 50 flamboyantly festooned floats that will be accompanied by Caribbean bands, marching groups and sequined street dancers.
By the time the parade rolls around, Key West will have been getting in the mood for more than a week. Among the highlights:
Oct. 21: The Heroes and Villains 5K run/walk is a costumed event on Oct. 21, with prizes for the best get-ups. Also Oct. 21 is Womenkind’s Decorated Bra Auction, in which undergarments tricked out by local artists and modeled “by Key West's most beautiful women” are up for bid to raise money for Womenkind’s breast cancer screenings and clinical breast exams.
Oct. 22: The 31st annual Headdress Ball: Bizarro Key West, the very adult-themed fundraiser for the KW Business Guild, one of the oldest gay and lesbian chambers of commerce, is Oct. 22. Info: HeaddressBallKeyWest.com. Capt. Tony’s Party in Plaid (what it sounds like) is the same night.
Oct. 23: Leashes will be attached to actual pets of the four-legged variety during the Pet Masquerade & Parade on Oct. 23, a costume party benefiting the Lower Keys Friends of Animals. Same night is the Lazy Gecko Red Neck Party, with “Duck Dynasty” and Daisy Duke your fashion inspiration. If that’s too much clothing for you, the Original Homemade Bikini Contest happens on Sunset Pier that night as well. Actress and onetime California gubernatorial candidate Mary Carey, who made her career wearing nothing at all, hosts the ABC (Anything But Clothes) Party at Bare Assets on Oct. 23 (KeysTix.com).
Oct. 24: Dante’s seventh annual Horns & Halos Pool Party will include their famous wet T-shirt contest on the pool stage and free body painting. If you are planning ahead, the pole dancing begins at 4:30 p.m. sharp. Not to be outdone, the inaugural Fantasy Fest Burlesque and Pole Performance will gather top professionals to the stage on Sunset Pier on Oct. 24. Sloppy Joe’s 30th annual free-to-enter Toga Party is the same night.
Oct. 25: Porn icon Ron Jeremy again will host the popular Pimp and Ho Party proceedings at Coasters (tickets: KeysTix.com); the 13th annual Living Art Airbrush Expo and its human models take over Sunset Pier; and the Old Town Masquerade March begins at the Key West Cemetery and ends (with stops for refreshments at select guesthouses) at the Green Parrot, where the Wild Magnolias and the Mardi Gras Indians will perform. And the costumed frivolity of the Street Fair is noon-10 p.m.
Oct. 26: On parade day, the open-air Duval Street Promenade is noon-10:30 p.m., with vendors offering masking and costuming ideas and accessories, plus food and drinks and live entertainment. Famed South Florida fetish model Rubber Doll hosts the Kinky Couples Party from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. Oct. 27 (FetishFestKeyWest.com). The 7 p.m. Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest Parade is scheduled to begin at the intersection of Southard and Whitehead streets, culminating in a mile-long march past the wildly decorated buildings (and inhabitants) on Duval to the ocean.
More info: FantasyFest.com.