Every year for the past several years, Richard Krzyinski, Steve King and Rick Keith have entered a float in the Fantasy Fest parade. Typically, the entry makes fun of something or somebody, or both.
"It's all in fun," King said. "Last year we poked fun at some of the politicians and prominent citizens."
This year, the float parodied the island's sewage problems, the lack of affordable housing and even the homeless.
The float resembled a Conch Tour Train pulling a circus cage. The train was labeled "Conch Turd Train" and the "fuel" tanks were labeled "Fecal Fuel Cell."
But on the day of the parade, Fantasy Fest director Linda O'Brien told the trio that their float was tasteless and demanded changes before she would allow it in the parade.
"She made us take off the `T' word," King said, "and she even wanted us to remove the word `fecal.' But last time I looked, `fecal' was not a `dirty' word. In fact, it's been in all the papers for months!"
King said O'Brien told him that she was reacting to pressure from Ed Swift, whose company owns the Conch Tour Train, and that she told them that Swift might even sue.
"While she was with us, she called Swift at least twice on her cel phone," King said.
But O'Brien told Key West The Newspaper this week that Swift had nothing to do with her decision to demand that the float builders clean up their act.
"It was all about taste," she said.
Ed Scales, the attorney for the Conch Tour Train, said he was not aware of any threats to sue anybody. "And that's the kind of thing I would be aware of," he said.
"It's like O'Brien was trying to keep our sewage problems a secret from the tourists who might be watching the parade," King said. "But heck, the story's been in the New York Times. I don't think it's a secret anymore.
"Sure, the sewage thing is a serious problem and it's not pleasant to talk about. But you have to admit that it's easy to joke about. And this is Key West."