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It's an 'A-Conch-Alypse' in Key West as annual 10-day Fantasy Fest begins

  • A participant in the Zombie Bike Ride makes her way down a street in Key West, Fla.

    A participant in the Zombie Bike Ride makes her way down a street in Key West, Fla.  (AP)

  • Oct. 19, 2012: Jessica Marzulla, right, adjusts the fit of a mask on Mark Marien in Key West, Fla., during the first day of Fantasy Fest, the island city's 10-day masking and costuming festival, set to continue through Oct. 28.

    Oct. 19, 2012: Jessica Marzulla, right, adjusts the fit of a mask on Mark Marien in Key West, Fla., during the first day of Fantasy Fest, the island city's 10-day masking and costuming festival, set to continue through Oct. 28.  (AP)

  • John McBride, owner of the Maskerville mask store in Key West, fitting Marty Lambeth with one of his creations.

    John McBride, owner of the Maskerville mask store in Key West, fitting Marty Lambeth with one of his creations.  (AP)

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.

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