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Swimmer Nyad leads Key West’s Fantasy Fest parade


Published:   |   Updated: October 27, 2013 at 01:14 PM

KEY WEST —Key West’s annual Fantasy Fest was concluding Sunday after a raucous night of parties and a parade featuring super heroes, revelers covered in body paint, and endurance swimmer Diana Nyad.

The 10-day costume and mask festival drew about 60,000 spectators and was capped with a decadent parade Saturday night honoring Nyad for her record-setting swim from Cuba to Key West. The elaborate procession featured 40 motorized floats, bands and exotically dressed marching groups.

“It was only seven weeks ago I walked up onto a beach right here in Key West after swimming 110.86 miles all the way from Cuba, a dream I had all my life,” said Nyad, who rode on a float designed to commemorate her feat surrounded by dancers costumed as threatening jellyfish.

Now she said she was in Key West solely for “the wild, raucous time of Fantasy Fest.”

Many of those taking part in the festivities wore costumes that illustrated the festival’s theme, “Super Heroes, Villains & Beyond.”

Standouts included a troupe of Wonder Woman lookalikes who performed a spirited dance number, a float featuring fictional crime fighter Batman rising 40 feet above the crowd to protect “Gotham City,” and a trio of “archangels” with massive white-feathered wings pursued by menacing horned demons.

Professional sports players who use steroids inspired the “Heroes to Zeros” float featuring a giant syringe and a troupe of nurses and baseball players.

Fantasy Fest began in 1979 to bolster tourism during a traditionally slow fall season. Now the festival brings approximately $30 million in annual revenues, tourism officials said.

Other festival highlights included a costume contest for pets and their owners, a lavish headdress ball and a masquerade march that began at the Key West Cemetery.

Fantasy Fest 2014, themed “Animéted Dreams & Adventures,” is scheduled for Oct. 17-26.

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