KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Female impersonators are to don their best sporting attire and highest heels to sprint down Key West’s renowned Duval Street during the Great Conch Republic Drag Race. Slated for Saturday, April 21, the zany racing competition drew some 1,700 onlookers in 2017, according to event organizers.
The 700 block of Duval is transformed into a challenging speedway for the dragsters by event host Bourbon St. Pub. The “course” typically includes a starting gate, pit stops, finish line and viewing areas. The first qualifying heats are scheduled for 2 p.m. with finals at 5 p.m.
The nontraditional event spoofs an auto-racing extravaganza with organizers dressed as pit crew and race officials. An island DJ fills the air with the sound of horns and revving engines.
However, the crowd's attention is generally focused on the often-hysterical drag performers who trade in the driver's cockpit for “heels on the pavement,” full makeup and wigs. Competition gets increasingly fiercer as the “queens” speed down the street past their rivals while trying to avoid spills, high-heel blowouts and wardrobe malfunctions.
Spectators cheer the drag racers as they attempt to navigate various road hazards. Participants even get a “diva-style” ride down the track in super-charged shopping carts propelled by local male dancers.
Aspiring racers can register for the event free of charge, and Bourbon St. Pub plans to provide high-heeled shoes and costumes for anyone who might need them. Donations are welcome in return.
The drag competition is part of Key West's 36th annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration. The 10-day festival commemorates the Florida Keys’ symbolic 1982 secession from the United States and formation of the independent island republic.
The celebration runs through Sunday, April 29, with events including a lighthearted sea battle and a “Barks & Brews Block Party” benefiting the Florida Keys SPCA.
Drag race information: New Orleans House Guest House at 305-293-9800