The Fantasy Fest costuming and masking festival in Key West will end Sunday with an open-air carnival for kids and a poolside dance party, according to the Florida Keys News Bureau.
Saturday night's parade was the highlight of the annual 10-day festival as it allows Key West residents and visitors to get a jump-start on Halloween. It featured more than 50 floats, bands and marching groups in ELABORATE costumes and drew some 50,000 spectators to downtown Key West, the Florida Keys News Bureau reports.
Many parade entries displayed the festival theme, "Aquatic-A-Frolic." Some standouts were a "splash park" float whose riders frolicked on functioning water slides, a replica ship carrying King Neptune surrounded by mermaids and a jellyfish, a "Crustaceans on Vacation" float peopled by "crabs" with giant claws and more than 100 marchers who danced down the street dressed as red-and-white striped lionfish, the Florida Keys News Bureau reports.
Hulk Hogan, whose actual name is Terry Bollea, was a surprise participant in the parade, according to the Florida Keys News Bureau. He and his wife Jennifer led the "pirate crew" of a Spanish galleon float, eliciting chants of "Hulk! Hulk!" from people in the crowd.
Fantasy Fest made its debut in 1979 to bolster tourism during a slow time. Florida Keys tourism officials said the festival brings approximately $30 million in revenues to the island chain every year, the Florida Keys News Bureau reports.
Other popular festivities were a costume contest for pets and their owners, a flamboyant headdress ball, a beachside costume competition and a masquerade march that began at the Key West Cemetery, according to the Florida Keys News Bureau.
Fantasy Fest 2012 is scheduled for Oct. 19-28 and is themed, "A-Conch-Alypsel."