KEY WEST, Fla. – The masked balls, parties and costume competitions of Fantasy Fest are underway in Key West.
The 10-day festival began Friday night at a coronation ball where locals Mark Patterson and Liz Ketcham were crowned king and queen. Aspiring royals campaigned by raising money for the Florida Keys' AIDS Help organization. They collected nearly $142,000.
Fantasy Fest culminates Oct. 27 with a nighttime parade featuring costumed marching groups, Caribbean bands and floats.
This year's theme, "A-Conch-Alypse," spoofs an ancient apocalypse prophecy. The Florida Keys island chain was nicknamed the "Conch Republic" after a tongue-in-cheek secession from the U.S. in 1982.
Officials say the colorful annual event has a $30 million impact in the Keys. The first Fantasy Fest was in 1979.