Visitors to Key West can don elaborate masks and costumes to act out adventures and daydreams during the annual Fantasy Fest celebration, set for Oct. 17-26 in the uninhibited island city. The 2014 festival is themed "Animeted Dreams & Adventures," inspired by traditional Japanese anime and virtually all forms of creative animation.
More than 40 masquerade parties, costume contests and themed events are scheduled during the 10-day extravaganza, culminating in a decadent grand parade designed to excel in excess and exuberance.
Participants are encouraged to draw costume and float concepts from the festival theme, whether portraying characters from classic anime, comic books like the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" series or animated film blockbusters such as "Frozen."
U.S. residents can enter a contest to win a 5-night trip for two to Key West and Marathon to experience Fantasy Fest's Masquerade March, parade and other wild adventures. To enter, text the word WILDKEYS to 65047 by 11:59 p.m. Sept. 19. Text-capable mobile users also can enter by visiting www.FloridaKeysWin.com.
Click here for a VIP preview of the festival's exotic adventures.
Poker Run Bikers to Ride Overseas Highway Throughout Keys
Motorcyclists from around the United States are to experience the Overseas Highway's 42 bridges and open-water vistas Sept. 18-21, raising money for charity during the 42nd annual Phil Peterson's Key West Poker Run. For the scenic specifics, click here.
History buffs can learn about Key West's past through its firefighting heritage at the Key West Firehouse Museum. Housed in the former Fire Station No. 3, one of the oldest fire stations in Florida, the museum's collection includes a 1929 American La France fire engine. Get fired up about the historic attraction by clicking here.
Divers can help preserve Florida Keys reefs and earn cash prizes during a fun, competitive derby to capture and remove non-native lionfish from Keys waters. Sponsored by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, the event takes place Sept. 13 at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Learn more about the worthwhile underwater contest here.
The Robert James Sales Baybone Celebrity Tournament, second in the fall series of Redbone Trilogy fishing events, provides a test of skill for anglers seeking bonefish and permit Oct. 10-12 in Key Largo waters. Angle for more information by clicking here.
"PROFILES IN PARADISE"
One of the top charter captains on America's East Coast, Skip Bradeen has spent 50 years sharing his unparalleled knowledge and showing anglers why Islamorada is called the Sport Fishing Capital of the World. Meet the legendary captain here.
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Presented by the Custom House Museum, this unique exhibit explores the Florida Keys as an historically alluring destination for travelers from around the world. The exhibit explores the history of tourism in the Florida Keys from the 1920s until the 1980s while focusing specifically on transportation, accommodations, travel brochures and postcards. Click here.
Marathon International Bonefish Tournament
This fun-filled tournament is more than 50 years old, and is one of the few tournaments where anglers can fish without a professional guide. Individuals and teams compete in fly and grand slam divisions for the top spin or fly angler who releases the largest bonefish, tarpon and permit "slam." To register, email here or call 305-304-8682.
Second Annual Swim for Alligator Lighthouse
All swimmers, triathletes and weekend warriors are welcome at this open water distance swimmers' meet, an 8-mile round-trip race from the shores of Islamorada to Alligator Lighthouse. Swimmers can participate as individuals or in 2-person or 4-person relay teams. The event raises awareness about the need to preserve six aging Keys lighthouses. Click here.
in Key Largo
Take Stock in Children Backcountry Challenge
This popular annual gathering offers an important fundraising opportunity for philanthropic anglers — and a chance to catch trout, snook and redfish. Proceeds benefit local Rotary Club of Key Largo scholarships and Take Stock in Children, a statewide scholarship program for children in seventh through 12th grades. Trophies for first through third place are to be awarded anglers in adult and pro divisions, while first-place snook, trout and redfish prizes are slated for juniors age 17 and under. To register, call Mike Shipley at 305-304-0421.
Mad Dog Mandich Fishing Classic
A top boat prize of $5,000 cash and a trophy await the team scoring the highest cumulative weight of the tournament's target species — dolphin, kingfish, tuna and wahoo. Other cash prizes and trophies are to be awarded as well. A portion of tournament proceeds is to benefit Mariners Hospital Oncology Services. Click here.
in Key West
SoMo Marathon & Half Marathon
Presented by Pat Croce's Rum Barrel, this event promises 26.2 or 13.1 miles of ocean and gulf views as well as iconic Key West landmarks for participating racers. In addition, a 10k is planned for those seeking a shorter challenge. Race weekend events also include an expo and a Sunday paddleboard challenge benefiting the Special Olympics of Monroe County. Click here.
in Big Pine & the Lower Keys
Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24 Band at Boondocks
Join the Florida Keys' favorite trop rocker and his band at Boondocks Grille & Draft House in the Keys for a meet and greet at 6:30 p.m., followed by a 7-10 p.m. live show. The event is free and open to the public. Tables can be reserved for a fee. Click here.
in Key West
Held in the historic Bahama Village neighborhood, the family-friendly Goombay presents sights, sounds and flavors recalling Key West's Bahamian heritage. Attendees can enjoy island-style food, arts and crafts, nonstop live entertainment and dancing in the streets. Click here.
Fourth Annual Stone Crab Claw Eating Contest
The much-anticipated opening of Florida's stone crab season takes place Oct. 15 each year, and the season opening is followed by this crab-consuming challenge. How fast can crab lovers crack and cleanly consume 25 stone crab claws? Interested eaters can test their munching mettle at this zany contest. Participants are encouraged to register early. Click here.
Oct. 31 - Nov. 9
in Key Largo
Little Shop of Horrors
The comedy horror rock musical is presented by Ginsberg Productions and the Friends of the Key Largo Cultural Center. Showtimes are scheduled for 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at the Murray E. Nelson Government & Cultural Center. For tickets, click here.