Mary Lou blacksmith gleefully blows a conch shell, the prize of the Florida Keys. Blow conch shells has actually been a keys tradition due to the fact that the at an early stage 1800s, as soon as seafaring settlers used them because that signaling. (Photo through Carol Tedesco, Florida secrets News Bureau)

If you desire to be mistaken for a Florida tricks resident — or at the very least an island-savvy regular visitor — don’t ever before say “kontch.” The widely-used indigenous “conch” is express “konk,” favor a conk on the noggin (which, despite tempting, should not be yielded to human being who persist in pronouncing the wrong).

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Keys residents are proud to paris the royal blue flag that the live independence Conch Republic.


For those who haven’t encountered it before, a conch is a mollusk (sometimes recognized as a sea snail). That might not sound as well appetizing, but actually conch meat is served and also savored in scores the restaurants from key Largo to an essential West.

It tastes a little bit like abalone, and also it can be uncovered in creamy white or tomato-based chowder, deep-fried fritters offered with cocktail sauce, tangy chilled conch salad and also even breaded and fried together conch steak. No two restaurants prepare it rather the same means — which method “foodies” deserve to have a good time sampling conch in numerous different eateries, to compare tastes and also cooking techniques.

As well together eating conch, at an early stage Keys inhabitants used its fluted pink-lined covering as a horn because that long-distance signaling. And also according come legend, they involved admire the mollusk’s tough, hardy nature so much that they adopted its surname for themselves.

Today conch is no longer harvested in the Keys, yet the native “conch” refers to someone born in the island chain — which is affectionately recognized as the Conch Republic.


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Former key West mayor Dennis Wardlow (left) and also other co-founder of the Conch Republic re-enact the historic secession consciousness on the irreverent republic’s 30th “birthday.” (Photo through Andy Newman, Florida secrets News Bureau)


How did that name come about? Like numerous other things, that a lengthy story. It involves stale Cuban bread, a governmental border checkpoint, a request for $1 exchange rate in international aid, and the Florida Keys’ symbolic secession native the United says in 1982.

The story began when a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint was set up there is no warning in Florida City, at the head the the Keys, supposedly so agents can search cars for drugs and also illegal immigrants. The roadblock created a traffic jam miles long on the overseas Highway, the just road the connects the island chain come mainland Florida, for vehicles leave the Keys.

The enormous traffic delays endangered to derail the arising tourism-based economy — and also made locals furious. The border patrol checkpoint, lock figured, meant the government was dealing with their beloved keys like a international country. V impeccable logic, they determined the island chain should end up being a international country.

On April 23, 1982, in front of one enthusiastic crowd at vital West’s Mallory Square, a hardy group of patriots proclaimed the tricks the independent Conch Republic and also hoisted a flag bearing a big conch shell on a ar of blue. They asserted war top top the United claims by ceremoniously bopping a U.S. Navy sailor on the head with a loaf of stale Cuban bread, surrendered 60 secs later and demanded $1 exchange rate in international aid.

The story the the secession captured international attention, and also the imaginations the thousands of human being who flocked to visit the new country. Throughout the excitement caused by the bear of a nation, the Border Patrol checkpoint quiet vanished, never ever to reappear.


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“Patriots” tide flags and also display signs throughout a ceremony noting the 30th anniversary the the establishing of the Conch Republic. (Photo through Andy Newman, Florida secrets News Bureau)


Loyal citizens room still wait for the foreign assist (no surprise there). But that there is no dampened the heart of the republic, whose motto is “we seceded where others failed.” Conch Republic passports and royal blue flags room as famous today together they were in 1982, and ambassadorships are extremely prized.

The 35th anniversary the the fateful secession will certainly be commemorated April 21-30 through the Conch Republic independence Celebration — an annual festival the proclaims keys residents’ proud in being part of the irreverent, good-natured “country.”

Highlights include a “drag” race for female impersonators, a “sea battle” featuring historical tall ships, and the world Longest Parade — so named since its course down key West’s well known Duval Street proceeds indigenous the Atlantic s to the Gulf of Mexico.

There’s quiet time to travel to the nation of islands for its 35th “birthday.” yet if girlfriend can’t make the celebration, nothing worry; the exuberant soul of the republic is obvious all year long.

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Whenever you arrive, though, remember one vital rule: don’t ever speak to it the “Kontch” Republic.


Categories: big Pine vital & the lower Keys, Events, Festivals, Food, Highlights, History, Islamorada, key Largo, an essential West, tricks Voices key Archive, local Color, Marathon, Quirks
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