Florida Keys

‘Boners and Stoners’ in post-Irma Key West

IMG_8527Parts of the Florida Keys may still be struggling to shed the impacts of Hurricane Irma, but the irreverent spirit that makes Key West Key West is undiminished.

(Pictured above, Queen & King Key West III, Donna Harvey & David Johnson frolic with dinosaurs at the Ugly Jacket fundraiser.)

The island is all in for Fantasy Fest, the iconic bacchanal already underway that runs through Oct. 29.

“We’ve moved from scrubbing mold and mildew from our walls to decorating orange wigs to delight the parade goers,” Val Marmillion, captain of the Mystick Krewe of Key West Mardi Gras organization, said in a press release. “We call it storm therapy, where we gather together in friendship, share creativity, and tell each other that all will be okay.”

IMG_8638With this year’s theme “Time Travel Unravels,” Marmillion’s group intends to parade as “our pre-historic ancestors.” (That’s Krewe Parade co-chair, Bob Harvey, ready to ramble as the Bedrock Police Chief).

“Expect to see ‘Boners & Stoners’ passing out 8,000 toy blinking bones, as they parade their troubles away for a night,” the Krewe noted.

Fantasy Fest comes amid an effort to boost the state’s tourism industry in the aftermath of the powerful storm, which scarred nearly every part of Florida last month.

Visit Florida is spending $5 million to advertise to the world that the Sunshine State — particularly, the Keys — is ready for business.

Gone from the Keys tourism website are notices about avoiding debris on the U.S. 1 drive for “creative costuming, offbeat artistry and a blend of colors.”

After weeks of hosting relief crews and reconstruction workers, the island is now also hosting several dozen masquerade balls, costume contests for humans and pets, a toga Party at Sloppy Joe’s and even — new this year — a Zombie Bike Ride.

By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.


Ravaged Keys bullseye of Florida tourism marketing plan

There’s still no price tag on the economic impact of Hurricane Irma on Florida’s tourism industry, but Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration yesterday announced an “aggressive new marketing” plan to lure back to the state.

Here’s a deeper dive into Visit Florida’s post-storm message:

— The online and broadcast campaign will start this week and run for about a month, leading into the state’s public-private tourism agency’s traditional winter marketing.

— The Florida Keys will get a lot of play “once our partners there have indicated they are ready to welcome visitors back.”

Scott wants the state’s tourism mecca up-and-running again by Oct. 1.

And with the state having to scramble to top last year’s 113 million visitors, Visit Florida President and CEO Ken Lawson described the marketing plan on Tuesday as one that will showcase “sunshine, blue skies and good times.”

Here’s more from Visit Florida:

— Phase one: “Florida is open for business.”

Sharing our partners’ content on social media as they post messages post-Irma.

Streaming live video broadcasts from locations across the state to targeted domestic and international audiences.

Deploying production teams across the state to develop video content that we will post and promote on social channels, YouTube and Digital TV.

Sponsoring social media efforts to encourage state-wide usage of #LoveFL by Florida residents.

Activating international tour operators in core international markets to manage any potential misperceptions of damage and encourage continuation of bookings, especially in the upcoming high booking month of October.

Reaching out to influencers and journalists who have been hosted on press trips to share their experiences from areas they visited.

— Phase two: “more traditional advertising tactics.”

Launching a multi-channel paid-media campaign that could include platforms such as billboards, digital transportation banners, social, online travel agencies, promotions, broadcast, YouTube and a co-branded media partnership.

Increasing our “Share a Little Sunshine” advocacy program to send advocates to local areas and connect with local Instagram communities to create InstaMeets across the state, in which Instagrammers meet up to take photos and videos of a certain area that they share in a branded effort.

Working with influencers to travel to areas around the state and share the message that Florida is sunny and open for business.


By Jim Turner.