KEY WEST, Florida Keys — The “end of time” is party time in Key West when Fantasy Fest 2012 takes a lighthearted look at the ancient apocalypse prophecy stating the world will end in December 2012. The outrageous annual masking and costuming festival, set for Oct. 19-28 and themed “A-Conch-Alypse,” features 10 days of revelry on the subtropical island whose natives are called “conchs.”

More than 40 masquerade balls, costume contests and celebrations are scheduled, culminating in a decadent grand parade designed to banish the gloom from “doomsday.”

Participants are encouraged to draw costume and float concepts from the festival theme, portraying apocalyptic ambassadors, zany zombies, dastardly doomsayers or uninhibited utopians.

Events begin Friday, Oct. 19, with the “Mayan Empire” Royal Coronation Ball to crown the festival king and queen. Also that weekend, Key West’s Caribbean roots are celebrated with Friday and Saturday’s Goombay street party in historic Bahama Village.

Subsequent festival highlights include Tuesday’s “Salacious Unveiling: End of Time” Headdress Ball, featuring prizes for the best masks and headdresses. Wednesday brings the quirky Pet Masquerade and Parade with animal antics from costumed dogs, cats, exotic birds and more on an oceanfront stage.

The lavish water’s-edge Pretenders in Paradise costume competition is scheduled Thursday, Oct. 25, under the stars. Themed “Zombie Nation Vacation,” it stars entrants in dazzling large-scale costumes who present performances complete with lights and music.

Key West’s Duval Street becomes a partier’s utopia Friday, Oct. 26, during the Fantasy Fest Street Fair, where vendors offer masks and costumes, artistry, food and libations. Just before sunset, the Masquerade March of exotically costumed characters parades through historic Old Town.

Other festival standouts include the Battle of Bone Island burlesque showcase, a “Mayan State of Mind” poolside party, sensual after-dark soirees and exuberant themed costume contests.

Rapturous revelry and revelations are predicted Saturday, Oct. 27, as tens of thousands of spectators gather for the Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest Parade in Key West’s historic downtown. The spectacle typically includes feather-bedecked marching groups, Caribbean bands and elaborate motorized floats, showing the “end of time” just might be the best of times.

Information and schedule: www.fantasyfest.com, facebook.com/FantasyFest or 305-296-1817

Key West visitor information: www.fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY

Social: facebook.com/floridakeysandkeywesttwitter.com/thefloridakeysYouTube.com/FloridaKeysTV

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