Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, who on Sept. 2 became the first person to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys without a shark cage, is to be the grand marshal of Key West's Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest Parade, set for Oct. 26.
The parade is the traditional highlight of the island city's lavish 10-day Fantasy Fest costuming and masking celebration, scheduled Oct. 18-27 and themed "Super Heroes, Villains... & Beyond." Organizers selected Nyad as grand marshal after she completed the 111-mile Florida Straits swim in just under 53 hours — the fifth time the 64-year-old athlete had attempted the grueling crossing.
"Given the festival theme this year, Diana is the perfect choice," said Fantasy Fest Director Linda O'Brien. "The physical and mental strength she displayed during her swim prove she's a real-life superhero."
Nyad will lead the parade on a float decorated to commemorate her marathon swim.
The flamboyant procession typically includes more than 50 decorated and motorized floats, many towering two stories high and featuring music, light shows and oversized moving parts. Accompanying them are Caribbean bands, marching groups and street dancers garbed in elaborate sequined and feathered costumes.
Many floats and costumes are to showcase the festival theme, with organizers encouraging entrants to draw inspiration from heroes, evildoers and larger-than-life characters portrayed in film, fiction, comic books, myths and more.
Fantasy Fest's 2013 pre-parade activities begin at noon Saturday, Oct. 26, with the open-air Duval Street Promenade. Promenade vendors are to offer masking and costuming finery and accessories as well as food and libations, while live entertainment adds a high-energy flair to delight revelers both valiant and villainous.
At 7 p.m. the parade is scheduled to begin at the intersection of Southard and Whitehead streets. Floats, bands and other parade participants are to travel down Whitehead toward the Gulf of Mexico, turn onto Front Street and then proceed a mile down Duval to the Atlantic Ocean.
When you go
The drive from Fort Lauderdale to Key West takes about 5 hours. American Eagle has flights from Miami International Airport. For event information: www.fantasyfest.com