We have The Lord of the Flies to thank for introducing the conch to popular culture. We have the Bahamas to thank for giving us conch fritters. But we have the Conch Republic to thank for inventing the Conch Honk. Now in its 45th year, the conch shell blowing contest is a way to celebrate the smooth, pink gastropod’s role in the Keys’ history. Centuries ago, Calusa Indians used the shells as communication devices, a practice sailors quickly adopted and shipwreck salvagers swiftly perfected.
Participants in the Conch Honk are divided into two groups: novices and “pucker pros.” Judged on the quality, duration, and loudness of their conch blowing, entrants are also scored on the, um, novelty of the sound they produce. Musical ability is not a requirement to participate, though experienced conch blowers can produce a deep, rich tone.
If you’re interested in tooting your own horn, the event is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, on the Sunset Pier at Ocean Key Resort & Spa, one of the best places in the world to grab a drink and watch the sunset, in my opinion. The competition is free to enter and free to watch. Conch shells will be available for purchase for those who do not have their own, and entertainment will be provided by Auwina Weed, a local celebrity and conch shell virtuoso.