Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
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Laid-back songster is grand marshal
Howard Livingston tapped to lead parade

A local singer, songwriter and margarita-maker will lead the Oct. 30 Fantasy Fest parade as its grand marshal.

Howard Livingston, founder of the Mile Marker 24 Band, will perform live while traversing Duval Street atop the lead float, which will feature Habitat for Humanity and the housing group's interpretation of the year's festival theme, "Habitat for Insanity."

"I'm still pinching myself," Livingston said on Monday, thrilled by the honor.

He joins the ranks of local personalities such as Capt. Tony Tarracino, Frank Romano, Joe Liszka, Tony Falcone, Wilhelmina Harvey, and national celebrities such as Jimmy Buffett, Daisy Fuentes and former Playboy Bunny Bridget Marquardt, who have led the parade in prior years.

Livingston is a Chicago native who has been visiting Key West for more than 20 years. He and his wife moved to the Southernmost City permanently about five years ago, which is when the band took shape.

The Mile Marker 24 Band is best known for its tropical tales and tunes -- as well as its conversion of an old Johnson outboard motor into a margarita machine. The frozen drinks are blended and served at each concert.

"This is one of the biggest things I've ever been involved with, and I am truly honored," Livingston said.

Linda O'Brien, head of The Marketshare Co., which produces the annual Fantasy Fest, said the board that produces the festival each year looks for an individual who well represents the ideals, laid-back attitude and tropical spirit of Key West, and Livingston fit the bill this year.

Grand marshals for the parade are chosen by the Tourist Development Association board, which created the festival more than 25 years ago. The group is not to be confused with the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, O'Brien said.

The grand marshal is not paid to appear in the parade, she said.

The Habitat for Humanity float will somehow mirror the theme of this year's Fantasy Fest, Livingston promised, but did not want to give away too many details.

Key West artist Rick Worth is working on the float design.

"You couldn't find a better artist to design the float," said O'Brien, adding that Worth already has begun working on the lead float.

"We'll have buildings going down Duval Street, don't you worry," she said.

While Worth puts the float together, Livingston is gearing up to host his own television show on Direct TV's R&R network, called "Key West Time."

The show first airs at 9 p.m. Nov. 4, and will feature fishing, diving, treasure hunting, tropical music, drinking and eating in the Florida Keys.

For more information on this year's grand marshal, visit http://www.milemarker24.com.

mmiles@keysnews.com

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