A highlight of the island’s 40th annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration, the race starred “strange bedfellows” propelling decorated beds on wheels along the island’s famed Duval Street.
Entrants were pitted against each other to pilot their beds as fast as possible to the finish line. Each team consisted of four runners “driving” the bed, with a fifth member riding on it.
The quirky race is a fundraiser for the Key West-based Sister Season Fund, established to assist local hospitality and tourism employees in need.
The race was held on the 40th anniversary of the Florida Keys’ 1982 symbolic “secession” from the United States, staged to protest the installation of a U.S. Border Patrol blockade at the head of the island chain, and “rebirth” as the independent republic. As agents searched departing cars for illegal drugs and other contraband, the checkpoint stopped traffic on the only road connecting mainland Florida with the island chain.
The Border Patrol’s action infuriated Florida Keys officials, residents and visitors caught in the miles-long traffic jam. After pleas to federal officials were denied, a group led by Key West’s then-mayor, Dennis Wardlow, protested by staging the “secession,” announcing the creation of the Conch Republic and raising its royal blue flag.
The roadblock eventually faded away never to resurface. But the Conch Republic lives on.
The 10-day anniversary celebration began April 15 with events including a “drag race” for female impersonators and a waterfront ceremony recalling the tongue-in-cheek secession.
Festivities are to conclude Sunday after activities highlighted by a sailing regatta that recalls Key West’s seafaring heritage.
Story: ‘Strange Bedfellows’ Race Decorated Beds for Charity in Key West
Locator Super: Key West, Fla.
Video: Video to match this story to be uploaded to FTP servers by 7:15 p.m. Saturday, April 23. Footage is available on the Florida Keys News Bureau's FTP server (download details below) or can be downloaded via Google Drive link.
B-roll of teams racing decorated beds on Key West’s Duval Street.
Video Source: Florida Keys News Bureau
Folder: News Video