KEY WEST (CBS4) – If you heard an interesting honking sound coming from down south, have no fear, it’s was only a yearly competition marking a major milestone.
The 50th Annual West Conch Shell Blowing Contest was held Saturday in Key West, pitting the best conch shell blowers against each other for the title of best honker.
In the end, seventh-generation island resident Clinton Curry took the crown.
Curry, a professional storyteller and museum director, impressed the judges by blowing a strong two-shell toot, an excerpt from composer Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” on one shell, and a single-shell 45-second blast.
“I’m all about preserving the heritage of my home town,” said Curry. “I was born and raised in Key West, my family’s been here for seven generations, and this is just one small piece that I get to contribute to helping preserve that history.”
The event began as a quirky salute to the Florida Keys’ seafaring heritage, but quickly became a popular family event. The musical event attracted all age groups from toddlers to seniors who took turns honking, squawking and sometimes producing recognizable tunes on the shells.
Judges evaluated the quality, duration, loudness and novelty of the music produced. Winners took home ribbons in several categories.
Sylvia Rowland of Chesapeake, Va., triumphed in the women’s division and the contest’s youngest entrant, 4-year-old Sam Holland of Key West, won the children’s division.
The top group entry was the Boca Chica Conchestra, whose 26 members performed a conch-shell accompaniment and offbeat dance to a recording of Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration.”
The shell of the sturdy sea mollusk that also is used in tasty Key West treats such as salad and croquettes is why the area is known as the “Conch Republic.”
Centuries ago, natives from the Calusa tribe blew conch shells to communicate over distance, and sailors used them as maritime signaling devices.
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