True to its name, the Conch Republic doesn’t stop at conch consumption. It also uses the attractive sea mollusk as a musical instrument.
Calusa natives were known to use conchs as a means to communicate between islands. Bahamian cultures also used the Queen conch for the same purpose. The bountiful instrument of the sea was later adopted by island settlers in the 19th century to signal fresh shipwrecks to their fellow “wreckers,” or shipwreck salvagers.
Conch blowing contests have a long history on the island since the 1960s, and continue today. This year, you can enjoy the Annual Key West Conch Shell Blowing Contest (unofficially known as the “conch honk”) on March 7, 2020 at the Oldest House Museum (322 Duval St.).
The conch honk brings together all ages and abilities to have a go in a contest judged on loudness, duration and tone. Entries range from signal calls to all-out melodies. It’s entertaining, funny, and part of what gives the island the reputation of “Key Weird.”
If you’re visiting the island outside of its designated conch blowing competition date, you can still buy your very own conch shell as a souvenir to hone your skill. We suggest The Shell Warehouse in Mallory Square, which is abundant in its collection. If you want to do more than just hear the ocean, select a conch with the tip sawed off – that means it’s ready to be played.
During your stop at the iconic Southernmost Point Buoy, take a photo with the bronze likeness of Bishop Albert Kee. Regarded as the island’s “ambassador of goodwill,” Kee greeted tourists in the area by blowing a conch until his death in the early 2000s. The beloved Conch is now memorialized with a statue, complete with a Queen conch.
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