by Shayne Benowitz
It first struck me Friday afternoon during the Parade of Costumes. With this year’s theme Pirates, Pundits, and Political Party Animals, Fantasy Fest was shaping up to be a politically charged exercise in freedom of expression. Women with horn-rimmed glasses and beehive up-dos abounded alongside men in presidential masks ranging from this year’s candidates to Ronald Reagan. Even Bill and Monica got a nod during the Saturday night parade.
It’s not news that the race to the White House has been closely followed and record-breaking voter turnout is expected on November 4. Across the country, and here in Key West many people have taken advantage of early voting, as well. What surprised me, though, was seeing this activism manifested so cleverly—sometimes derisively—on Duval Street during Fantasy Fest.
One contestant at Hog’s Breath’s Homemade Bikini Contest had images of Obama, McCain, Palin, and Bush, along with a particularly Floridian joke, a hanging chad adorning her bikini. At Fogarty’s Red Party, a couple of scantily clad girls in elephant ears and trunks confirmed to me that they were indeed Republicans. A woman dressed as a hippy sported McCain-Palin buttons making a contradictory statement. Michelle Obamas, donkey ears, body painted Palins… it never stopped.
Saturday night’s parade was a political convention unto itself. One of the first floats hauled Palin, McCain, Obama, and Michelle impersonators. There were Wall Street Pirates, a USO themed float, and a mobile of ex-presidents. There was a float dedicated to green living and another representing the swing vote. Signs exclaimed “Down with Big Oil and Fuel Prices,” “Weapons of Mass Affection,” “Soldiers of Love.” Monica Lewinsky carried a sign urging people to “Vote for my boyfriend’s wife!” Finally, papier-mâché likenesses of McCain and Obama’s heads were toted down Duval Street on a float.
Political energy was crackling during Fantasy Fest. Let’s hope that it’s just as electric on Election Day. Everyone, be sure to get out there and vote November 4!
Shayne Benowitz is a Fury crewmember and freelance writer working on her debut novel. For more travel stories and a daily dose of what’s cool around the globe visit her Wanderlust Website at http://web.me.com/shaynebeth.