The 52nd Conch Shell Blowing Contest
March 1, 2014
An Old Island Days tradition, this unique contest features novel sounds produced by contestants in several age categories as they attempt to make “music” on fluted conch shells. While most contestants only manage blasts or squawks, each year a few produce complex melodies that impress judges and audiences alike. Winners are chosen for the quality, duration, loudness and novelty of the sounds they make, with trophies awarded in multiple age categories. The festivities typically include performances by talented “pucker pros.”
This Key West contest is located in the garden of the Oldest House, 322 Duval Street, free and open to all ages. Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. and contest begins at noon.
More about the History of the Conch Shell Blowing Contest
The contest was conceived 52 years ago by the Old Island Restoration Foundation, founded in 1960 to advocate preservation of Key West’s culture and historic buildings. Conch shells have been used as signaling devices in the Florida Keys for more than 200 years. Native-born islanders are called Conchs and the Keys are nicknamed the Conch Republic. In the 1800s, when the local economy was largely based on salvaging cargoes from ships wrecked on the nearby reef, sailors attracted attention by blowing piercing blasts on the shell. However, the Keys’ connection with conch goes far beyond instrumental and communications applications. The slightly tough meat of the hardy mollusk is the prime ingredient in conch chowder and conch fritters, two of the island chain’s signature dishes. Keys natives proudly proclaim their own tough, hardy nature by calling themselves “conchs” and their home the Conch Republic.