KEY WEST, Florida — The elaborate 10-day Fantasy Fest costuming and masking ended Sunday on this subtropical island, following its highlight late-night parade that featured grand marshals who pioneered the Florida Keys' fight for marriage equality.
Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones launched a landmark challenge to Florida's same-sex marriage ban. They led Saturday night's procession atop a "wedding cake" float surrounded by 33 other couples in wedding attire.
In July, Huntsman and Jones won a court ruling that overturned Florida's statewide ban on same-sex marriage for residents of the Keys, but they still can't marry because Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the ruling.
"I hope our appearance as grand marshals of Fantasy Fest will show the rest of the state, our state attorney general and our governor, that we're all one human family and that we need equality now," said Huntsman. "And no more wasting taxpayers' money. Let's get it done."
When the grand marshal's float reached a reviewing stand, the couples threw wedding bouquets to the crowd.
"Our float was designed for us," said Jones. "It's a wedding cake with the rainbow over top of it, symbolizing the marriage equality we're aiming for."
More than 50,000 spectators, some dressed in flamboyant costumes and some wearing little more than body paint, lined Key West's downtown streets for the procession of more than 40 motorized floats and costumed marching groups.
Some parade entries illustrated the festival theme, "Animeted Dreams & Adventures," inspired by Japanese anime and other forms of animation.
Standouts included a "Hello Kitty" parody featuring anime-style dancers, a float spoofing the "Guardians of the Galaxy" comic books and film, and an ensemble of cartoon-like superheroes and villains.
Other Fantasy Fest 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. The festival traditionally brings approximately $30 million in annual revenues to the Florida Keys, tourism officials said.
Fantasy Fest 2015, themed "All Hallows Intergalactic Freak Show," is scheduled Oct. 23 through Nov. 1 with the parade set for Halloween night.
Fantasy Fest: http://www.fantasyfest.com
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