How often have you or someone you know put a conch shell to the ear, claiming to hear the ocean within it? While this may be your only association with the seashell, conch shells have a long history in Key West and the rest of the Florida Keys. Ranging from the many ways to eat conch to a conch shell horn blowing contest, let our team at the Cabana Inn give you a brief rundown of the importance of the conch shell in Key West.
History of the Horn
The history of Key West is intertwined with conch shells—native-born islanders even call themselves “conchs!” For many decades, many people used the shell as a means of communication. For example, the Calusa Indians and sailors alike would blow into it to signal to their far-away companions. In fact, some ships would not depart shore without a conch shell horn, just in case they needed help. Plus, early Key West inhabitants would blow into a shell to signal that a ship was sinking off the coast. The “Conch Republic,” otherwise known as the Florida Keys, created their own flag in 1982.
The Conch Shell Horn Blowing Contest
Typically held in Key West in March, the Conch Shell Horn Blowing Contest is held to “celebrate the historic importance of the conch in the Keys.” The event is free to enter for anyone, as long as you know how to make a conch shell horn, and how to blow a conch shell. Participants first must find the perfect seashell. Then, some break a hole with a hammer, while others saw off the end to create a mouthpiece. Once they’ve created the perfect “instrument,” many place their hand into the curve of the conch to change the pitch when they blow. Within the contest, each “conch honk” is judged on the loudness, length, and quality of the sound. Plus, novelty is taken into consideration if you have a particularly unique conch honk.
Culinary Influences of the Conch
When you travel to Key West, you’ll find besides blowing into conch shell horns that you can also eat it in many forms. It’s something you shouldn’t leave the Cabana Inn without trying at least once! One of the most popular ways to consume it is in fritter form. Otherwise, you can taste conch chowder, conch ceviche, or cracked conch (breaded and fried, served with a dipping sauce).
Key West Inns
If you visit us during March, make sure to visit the Conch Shell Horn Blowing Contest for an experience you won’t have anywhere else. Plus, you have to try the delicacy: check out places like DJ’s Clam Shack, Half Shell Raw Bar, or The Conch Shack, nearby. For more information about staying at the Cabana Inn and other things to do in Key West, visit our website or give us a call at 866-413-2230.