Goombay, the annual kick-off for Fantasy Fest, is a locals’ favorite event, celebrating Key West’s Caribbean culture as brought to America through the Bahamas. This is the heritage of many of Key West’s Bahama Village residents, and it is their indigenous customs and traditions that we celebrate annually.
Tracing its roots back to Africa, the term, “goombay”, references the beating of drums – particularly the deep-bodied type with goatskin head, held between the legs when played — and the music and dance that grew out of the rhythm.
Goombay music is similar the calypso from Trinidad. Simple in chord progression, lyrics rich in historical content tell stories of everyday island life.
A related type of music known as “Junkanoo” is one of the most celebrated art forms of the Bahamas and is closely associated with Goombay. Junkanoo’s foundation is the strong tradition of goombay goatskin drums, embellished with bugles, cowbells, conch shell and bicycle horns, and whistles. Similar to goombay in its rhythmical variety, junkanoo music has been passed down through generations, training being gained by taking part in groups that participate in festival parades.
In keeping with tradition, Key West’s own local junkanoo bands, the Thunder From Down Under and the Key West Island Junkanoos, will open the Goombay celebration, leading costumed revelers in a parade down Duval Street. Petronia Street, the gateway to Bahama Village, will be transformed for the weekend into a festive street fair running from Duval Street to the Gulf waterfront, offering two high-energy days and nights of multi-cultural food, crafts, and performances by popular Bahamian and local musicians.
Goombay’s high energy level is a fitting kick-off to Key West’s 32nd annual Fantasy Fest, the Southernmost City’s peak event. The 10-day masking and costuming gala, this year themed “Aquatic Afrolics”, runs from Goombay through the end of October.
Check accommodations availability at the Tropical Inn, on the parade route and only a half-block from the Petronia Street corridor, the site of the annual Goombay celebration.