16:01 PM

Conch Shell Blowing Contest Tests ‘Pucker Power’ in Key West

Story: Conch Shell Blowing Contest Tests ‘Pucker Power’ in Key West
Locator Super: Key West, Fla. 
Video: Video to match this story has been uploaded to FTP servers. Footage is also available on the Florida Keys News Bureau's FTP server (see note below) and via Google Link here.

B-roll of children, adults and groups competing in Conch Shell Blowing Contest; SOTs with men’s division tied winners Brian Cardis and Peter Drake. 
TRT: 02:40
Filename: KeyWestConchHonk.mp4
Video Source: Florida Keys News Bureau

KEY WEST, Fla. -- Making music with a conch (pronounced "konk") shell might seem unusual, but several dozen people tried it during weekend’s annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest in the Florida Keys. 

Saturday’s Key West’s "Conch Honk" ended with a tie in the men’s division after Peter Drake and Brian Cardis both demonstrated their “pucker power” by playing song excerpts on the conch’s fluted, pink-lined shell.

Cardis, a pediatric cardiologist from Macon, Georgia, played part of Elton John’s hit “Crocodile Rock,” alternating between large and miniature shells while wearing glittery glasses like those favored by John.

“I tried to pick a song that was fun and a crowd pleaser, and one that would fall in line with the limited amount of notes that you can play on a conch shell,” said Cardis, who also won the men’s division in 2023.

Drake, a mental health counselor from North Stonington, Connecticut, chose the traditional tune “Amazing Grace” — a tune he said he often played at sunset on his sailboat.

He first entered the contest as a teen about 50 years ago, and offered some tips for aspiring “conch honkers.”

“I would give the advice of start slowly, learn that bass note that the conch shell has within it, and just play it nice and clear — as clear as they can,” Drake said. 

Contest judges evaluated competing men, women, children and groups on the quality, duration, loudness and novelty of sounds they made.

Other winners included Florida Keys duo Joseph Cosme and Eddie Strunk, who took top honors in the group division after performing a lively improvisational duet. Angelica Hodek of Key West blew a long, strong blast to earn the women’s division title.

Presented by Key West’s Old Island Restoration Foundation, the quirky contest salutes the Florida Keys’ seafaring heritage and centuries-old use of the “conch horn” for signaling and communication.

As well as an offbeat musical instrument, the conch shell is an enduring symbol of the Keys. Native-born citizens call themselves "conchs,” and the island chain is nicknamed the Conch Republic.


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Filename: KeyWestConchHonk.mp4

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