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Watch This Conch Shell Blowing Contest

conch shell blowing

KEY WEST, Fla. — More than 30 entrants competed in Key West’s Conch Shell Blowing Contest Saturday, testing their “pucker power” by trying to make music using a fluted, pink-lined conch shell.

When the quirky challenge concluded, Jayne Challman of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, was named the winner in the women’s division and Corey Fritz of Summerland Key, Fla., “blew away” the judges to win the men’s division.

Challman performed a lively excerpt from Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” to secure her victory, while Fritz played an intricate original composition on a huge polished conch shell from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Other winners included Key West’s Kyla Bender, 12, who blew her conch shell while wearing a back feathered tutu and conch-shell tiara.

The contest attracted several hundred spectators to watch entrants ranging from pre-teens to seniors to multi-person ensembles. Competitors were judged on the quality, duration, loudness and novelty of the sounds they made.

Challman’s victory reinforced her regular use of the conch shell for a practical purpose.

“I have a tiki bar at home, and so when it’s time for happy hour, I let everybody know in the neighborhood — I give a happy hour blow on the conch shell,” she said.

Conch shell blowing has been practiced in the Florida Keys for generations. In the 1800s, when the local economy was largely based on salvaging shipwreck cargoes, sailors attracted attention by blowing piercing blasts on the “conch horn.” The shell of the sturdy sea mollusk is a symbol of the island chain, which is also known as the Conch Republic.

A 50-year-plus tradition, the annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest is organized Old Island Restoration Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Key West’s architectural and cultural heritage.



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