A group of local business owners started thinking about what they could do to change that by attracting visitors and tempting snowbirds to return sooner for an earlier start of the lucrative winter season. Bill Conkle, Tony Falcone, Joe Liszka and Frank Romano decided a big party might just do the trick — and taking advantage of the popularity of Halloween and the tradition of fanciful costuming locally, in 1979, they threw a parade.
That first parade, small, but absolutely outrageous, has in time grown to be Fantasy Fest®, a festival of costumed parties in true Key West style. Over the years, Fantasy Fest, has become the premier masking and costuming extravaganza, like nothing else you’ve ever seen. The festival has grown to encompass more than 60 parties, costumed marches, street fairs, and glamorous balls, as well as the show-stopping Fantasy Fest parade.
It happened April 23, 1982. What started as the succession of the city of Key West, Florida eventually expanded to include all of the Florida Keys. This entire event started earlier in March in response to a roadblock on a main highway between the Keys and mainland Florida. A border patrol set up a blockade north of the Keys at Florida City on Highway 1. The Border Patrol stopped vehicles to search for drugs and illegal immigrants. This roadblock and checkpoint initially created a massive traffic jam. As the roadblock and searches continued, it hindered tourism and was a major headache for residents in the area. To understand the severity of the entire event, one must be aware that there are only two roads that connect the Florida mainland to the Florida Keys. With this disruption along a main highway, it proved to be quite an inconvenience to the people.
In 1998 John Spraque joined ONElist , a place for people to gather on the internet, a pre-pre-pre predecessor to facebook, and created fantasyfest_keywest. By October of that year we had approximately 20 members in it. It was basically an email hosting company for people interested in a common subject. You could also put up some low res pics as long as you had the patience to spend about an hour or so per pic. Also, I have no idea how people found it since search engines were in there infancy and very few people even knew about the world wide web. That year about a dozen of us met in Key West and went to a few events.
This is the first year of the now famous Kelly’s Kinky Karnival. We have heard on good authority that the idea for this party actually came from Kelly McGillis. She owned the bar till June 2017.
The first time this internet group got together it was at Fat Tuesday’s. The bar showed no love and did not make this small motley group feel welcome. But because this was a time before cell phones, the group continued to meet there every night for the duration of this fantasy fest.
After finding Fat Tuesday’s less than ideal, the early krewe was on the lookout for a new meeting place. They stumbled upon Capt Tony’s, it was slightly off of Duval and had lots of space. Also being off of Duval back in 99 meant that it was not to busy, especially during the early part of the week. The bartenders and staff were very friendly and told us they appreciated that we came there. It has been a great location for us and we have enjoyed many benefits from our relationship. Little did they know that 20 years later this small group would grow to over 500 members and fill there bar every night during fantasy fest, and become the official meeting place of the Krewe de Krazy Life.
Thru all these mergers the fantasyfest_keywest name and group had survived.
On Tuesday, of 2002, I painted my wife in a white top and she wore a plaid skirt. There were some costumes starting to appear on Tuesday’s and we wanted to take advantage of every night. Later that evening, about 10:30pm, we popped into Captain Tony’s, which was dead, to use the bathroom. There were two couples sitting on the stools towards the back of the bar. Those woman also had on plaid skirts and they were taking pictures of each other. When my wife exited the bathroom, we asked if we could take pictures too and they all posed together. Heck, 3 ladies in plaid.-Travelino
As we walked out the door, a light bulb went on (genesis?) I said to my wife, heck, wouldn’t it be a kick to get a whole lot of people to dress in plaid next year (2003). I could see all these ladies in those short school girl skirts. My thoughts were that there wasn’t a theme for Tuesday, and that Captain Tony’s was pretty empty, thus a good place to meet.
After the 2002 FF, we all chatted again on the MSN BB. I suggested the plaid idea and the active chatters liked the idea. I wrote a letter to Captain Tonys to see if they would sponsor it and got no reply. I also contacted the FF organizers and was told only a business could sponsor a theme night, that as a group we could not. So I suggested we just spread the word and show up. The idea evolved to where the guys would dress in plaid too, so it was kilts, skirts, etc, anything plaid. We ended up just talking it up on the chats each week.-Travilino
Some one said to help identify ourselves on the other nights, we should wear something plaid, like arm bands or a bit of plaid somewhere. And plaid became the thing that defined the Krewe de Krazy Life.
I remember seeing a group online called the MSN Fantasy Fest Group. It was their first year. They were meeting at Fat Tuesday’s and then later at the Bull. We met up a few times during the week. The next year, we even had ball caps made up. I don’t mean professionally done… standard blank ball caps that had MSN on the bill with glue and glitter. I don’t remember when the transition came but we switched from MSN to yahoo early on. We decided that we wanted to enter the parade one year as a walking group. I don’t remember how any of us there were but I believe there were no more than 18 of us. When we got to the staging area, we were told that we needed something to keep us all together… a “boundary” of sorts. Since my house was undergoing renovations, I ran home and picked up a couple of lengths of PVC pipe for 4 of us “wheel monitors” to carry. If I a not mistaken, we got rid of the pipes before we even got to the guard shack because they were too cumbersome. The next years were a blur but I believe we entered the USS BJ as a float. The year after that I let slip to the group that I could put a band together to play on the float. We “only need a car trailer” to set up on. Oh, and a generator.
The very first friday party was at Harbor Lights, this party I have been told that this was the craziest of all of the friday parties and will unlikely ever be surpassed.
In 2005 the “Internet Group” decided they needed a name and after careful consideration they came up with
Krewe De Krazy Life.
Hurricane Wilma forces Fantasy Fest to be Postponed!
Ann Lee AKA The Travel Slut, open up home for Fantasy Fest after hurricane Wilma strikes Key West!
Just hours before Fantasy Fest 2005 was to begin, Key West was devastated by both winds and flooding waters from Hurricane Wilma (the 4th Category 3+ to strike Florida that year). Highway 1 was closed due to flooding and debris covering the highway and Key West was cut off from the mainland.
Dozens of newly created Krewe de Krazy Life group members were already in Florida and awaiting news as to whether FF 2005 would be able to start. It was during this 1st weekend that many Krewe members were meeting in Ybor City (adjacent to downtown Tampa) at the Green Iguana and Coyote Ugly bars and restaurants at night.
During dinner one night with about 30-40 Krewe present, I stood up and said, “This is crazy. Why not just come to my home for a Krewe party so we can dress in our costumes, drink, swim nude in our pool and hottub and party the night away?” This was met with enthusiasm by everyone.
Well, the next night about 50 people from around Florida, including many out-of staters, arrived at my home and began what was to become an annual get-together and has evolved over the years to become a 3-day, open doors house party. – The Travel Slut
Fantasy Fest was posponed because of Hurricane Willma and rescheduled in Dec.
The Friday party was dubbed the freaky friday party and moved to Salsa Loca
In early 2004 someone had purchaced the domain name krewedekrazylife.com, thinking they could profit from our group wanting that for our website. NO SIR! We don’t play that way, John and Efrain kept a close eye on the registration of that name and when it expired without the owner realizing it Efrain bought it and our web presence was there for all to see!
Here is the original post on Yahoo group on Sept 9th 2008….
“Sunday night celebration oct 19th at Capt Tony’s
Posted By: bobbyxsandy
Tue Sep 9, 2008 1:49 pm
CELEBRATING FORTY YEARS
of Friendship, Lust, & Love
You’re invited to join
Bobby & Sandy
in celebrating Forty Years of being together.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
428 Greene St.
Key West, Florida 33040
PIRATE WEAR ENCOURAGED
THIS IS NOT A ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
THEY’RE CELEBRATING FORTY YEARS OF TOGETHERNESS.”
This is the repost from BoobyxSandy How the Pirate Party got started…
“It all started the year before when we went to Capt Tony’s between 10 and 11 pm on Subnday night it was empty, after having one drink the bartenders told us since it was so slow they were going to close early and get some rest for the busy week coming up and so it began. I knew there were a lot of other people in town early in the week like us and we needed to have a party for the early folks. I talked to John about our idea of having a pirate party with a costume contest on Sunday night and he talked to the management . They wanted to know how many people would be there . We had no idea ,they wanted us to quarranty there would be at least 100 people and they would bring in a band. With a lot of hesitation we told them we would make the 100 people . Well it is now history , hundreds of people showed up so many that it spilled out into the road and the cops came and tried to keep the people out of the street but the crowd grew so big they ended up blocking off the srteet , which was unheard of on Sunday night. I m/c ‘ed the costume contest and rest is in history books , it is now one of the biggest un-official parties at Fantasy Fest and that is how the Pirate Party at Capt Tony’s got started. BobbyxSandy”
“Bobby..I sure remember you guys starting the pirate party on Sunday…you mention it on Sept 9th 2008 on the yahoo group and in less than 2 months word had spread like wildfire that even
the Cabbies were telling people arriving in KW that the pirate party at Capt. tony’s was the place to be that night.
Who would have thought that it would become one of the biggest parties on the first Sunday of FF week.” – Efrain
“Thanks everyone for turning out at Capt. Tony’s last night for the Pirate Party. It was an even better turnout than anyone expected. If you were not there, the place was full and people spilled out into the street. The KW police even had to come by and ask people to move onto the sidewalks because they were not prepared to close off the streets last night. It looks like the Krewe has started another FF tradition now.” – John
This is the first year of having a krewe theme, and it was Captain Tony’s Asylum for the Plaid Insane.
In the past, Monday night was always known as fetish night with Kelly’s holding there Kinky Karnival as they had since 1998. By 2014 Fantasy Fest and the Krewe had gotten so big that getting into Kelly’s was next to impossible. The krewe doing what we do best had started gathering at capt tony’s, and the Capt Tony’s Rubber Ball was born.
The old haywagon had seen better times and had to be put out to pasture, but we bought a new car hauler that Bonnie & Dave are turning into our official Krewe de Krazy Float.
Captain Tony’s Aquatic Fantaseas.
Captain Tony’s Survivors’ Party
Angie and Tony Caniglia had the great idea of doing a poker run with scooters as a daytime event during fantasy fest. They called it a ‘Scooter Krawl’ , everyone dressed up in tu tu’s and the rest is history. The event was so much fun it was decided to make it an annual official krewe event. Thanks For the great idea!
Super Krazy Krewe
As krewe members kept coming to keywest earlier and earlier every year for fantasy fest we start gathering earlier. This was the year the theme was Get Lei’d. Wear a lei or boa and let everybody know you are part of the krewe de krazy life.
Capt Tony’s Plaid Anime-niacs
For some time now any krewe members still on the island on sunday evening after the parade would get together at capt tony’s to have a drink and say there farewell’s. This year it became an official event and has grown every year. The name come from the fact that it is very hard to keep clothes on Fran when she’s in capt tony’s, hench the name ‘The naked farewell’.
Capt Tony’s Star Wars Cantina
Red White and Boobs
Capt Tony’s Time Travellers
The Krazy Krewe in Old Key West