Fantasy FestKEY WEST, Florida Keys Animal antics take center stage Wednesday, Oct. 27, during the annual Pet Masquerade and Parade, a wacky costume competition for barking, meowing and squawking revelers and their human companions.

Dogs, cats, exotic birds, ducks, turtles and even pot-bellied pigs are to display mega-doses of animal magnetism as they compete for lavish prizes in the offbeat contest, set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at the Casa Marina Resort, 1500 Reynolds St.

Entries traditionally range from simple pet-and-person pairings to multimember animal-and-human ensembles performing tail-wagging musical numbers. The event is a highlight of Key West’s 10-day Fantasy Fest costuming and masking festival.

New Year's - Key WestStandouts in past Pet Masquerades have included a bearded dragon on a moving toy motorcycle, a tiny canine dressed as a popular sandwich chain’s trademark “$5 footlong,” a duck lounging in a bathtub on wheels and a flock of giant “chicken people” who cavorted onstage with a dog named Weasel.

The 2009 competition featured an appearance by “Balloon Dog,” an English bulldog named Brutus harnessed to a pseudo weather balloon. The entry parodied the “Balloon Boy” saga involving a Colorado child supposedly carried away inside a runaway homemade weather balloon.

Competitors in the 2010 event are encouraged to design their costumes around the Fantasy Fest theme of “Habitat for Insanity.” Judges traditionally award prizes for the top junior contestants, most exotic attire, best theme adaptation, best pet-owner look-alikes and overall winner.

The critter contest is to be emceed by well–known local personalities.

Registration for the Pet Masquerade begins at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Casa Marina. The contest entry fee is $25, with proceeds benefiting Lower Keys Friends of Animals.

Viewing of the madcap menagerie is free, and organizers request that spectators leave nonparticipating pets at home.

For more information, contact Pet Masquerade organizer Nancy D’Amato at quepasakeywest@hotmail.com or 305-304-1026. For a complete schedule of Fantasy Fest events, visit www.fantasyfest.net.

For information about lodging in Key West, call 1-800-LAST-KEY (800-527-8539) or visit the Keys website at www.fla-keys.com.

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