Monday, November 14, 2005

Fantasy Fest Timing Offends Some Key West Residents

As if things weren't enough up-in-the-air for many Key West Florida businesses and their employees, the rescheduled Key West Fantasy Fest is going to be debated at tomorrow's Key West City Commission meeting. The organizers of the event must still get approval from the city to hold the event - which requires permits for street closures, open container laws, and suspension of noise ordinances. Without the City's o.k. Fantasy Fest cannot happen.

This whole mess started when Hurricane Wilma forced the cancellation of the annual Halloween festival, something most residents never before thought would happen. The new date chosen for the Key West events were December 7-11....Pearl Harbor Day. Almost immediately some residents complained and thought it disrespectful to hold the festival on such a somber day. In response, the organizer sent out a poorly thought letter suggesting that we all show our reverence for the date with an all out "Red, White, and Blue" Fantasy Fest. Even the local press jumped on the public roasting - and declared the organizers insensitive and dim-witted. The organizers retracted the letter, and now have themed the event "Wilma's Freaks, Geeks, and Goddesses", a sort of mutation of the original theme, with the addition of "Wilma's".

Now cue up the City Commission. Senior Commissioner Harry Bethel won't have anything to do with Fantasy Fest in December. He voiced that it is family time, and something so bawdy (read "deviant") should not be in the same Holy month of December.

But where are all the local freaks, artists, and other fun characters that made Key West known as a laid-back, non-conformist community? Seems most are long gone, leaving a new island demographic rearing it's conservative head. More and more religious residents are belly-aching about the devilish Fantasy Fest invading the sacrosanct December. All the while, the working residents are stunned. Most are barely hanging on due to the combination of skyrocketing housing costs and hurricanes interrupting their ability to work. For workers and more than a few businesses, Fantasy Fest is critical.

On top of everything else, Goombay festival was rescheduled for the same night as the Christmas Parade. Residents of Bahama Village are understandably upset that the event organizers rescheduled their big party for the same day as the Christmas Parade, forcing them to choose between the two. Finally, organizers of Fantasy Fest have stated that if the event doesn't happen in December, it may not happen next Halloween. Somehow their funding is in jeopardy if they don't spend the money in the year it was allocated for.

All this is scheduled to be heard at Tuesdays commission meeting. With an 80% turnover on the commission after the elections, no one is sure what they will decide.
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