KEY WEST, Fla. — A sixth-generation Key West resident, who first blew a conch shell as a child, played two shells simultaneously to take top honors Saturday in the island’s 48th annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest.
Clinton Curry, 36, followed his two-toned toot with a portion of composer Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” on a single shell, earning applause from several hundred spectators.
“The thing I like best about blowing the conch shell is that it helps preserve the culture of Key Westers,” Curry said.
The contest drew more than 40 entrants, ranging from young children to seniors, who were judged on the quality, novelty, duration and loudness of the sounds they produced.
The top group entry and audience favorite was a self-described “Conchestra,” whose 22 members performed a conch-shell accompaniment and offbeat dance to a recording of The Village People’s “YMCA.”
The contest’s youngest entrant, 6-year-old Katie Worth of Big Pine Key, Fla., won the children’s division.
The fluted, pink-lined conch shell has been blown in the Florida Keys since the early 1800s, when seafaring settlers used it as a signaling device. Native-born islanders are commonly called Conchs, and the Keys are known as the Conch Republic.