In Key West, people don’t need much of a reason to throw a party.
But fears over the pandemic wiped out the island’s famous calendar of festivities in 2020. Annual gatherings that marked the seasons were scratched as city leaders and event planners opted for caution.
Now, several large events have returned as COVID-19 numbers continue to fall. The city pulled off Fantasy Fest in October. The power boat races are back and running through this weekend. And downtown will light up in early December with the city’s beloved Holiday Parade.
The Holiday Parade, which the city has put on since the mid-1990s, was canceled in 2020.
Approved by the City Commission this month, the parade brings out families and groups of friends to line the streets hoping to catch candy from the parade participants. It feels like a homecoming for residents.
“I’m still completely cautious about it,” said Key West City Commissioner Clayton Lopez, who counts the parade as one of his favorite local offerings. “I also understand we can’t keep closing ourselves off to those things we did under normal circumstances. We have to at some point start depending on people using their common sense.”
Fantasy Fest came back this year after being canceled in 2020, although organizers delivered a smaller version this time without a big Saturday night parade, the Goombay festival or a street fair.
The 10-day event known for its adults-only content and parties, drew crowds in late October though they didn’t appear as thick as in years past. Several people created their own Zombie Bike Ride, as the official one that draws some 8,000 people had been called off in August, and many locals put together a smaller version of the parade known as the Masquerade March.
Locals are now being asked to put in their applications to enter floats in the Holiday Parade.
In recent years, the event has included floats and walking groups that include miniature horses from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm and a roller derby group. Santa rides in the parade along with local church groups, school children, cheerleaders and the Conch Train.
If you go
What: Key West Holiday Parade
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 4
Where: Starts at the corner of Truman Avenue and White Street with a route that heads downtown along Duval Street.