How Florida Keys became the Conch Republic
Credit: The Florida Keys & Key West
The Florida Keys invites everyone with ‘a Sovereign State of Mind’ to celebrate the Conch Republic next month
The Keys has always been a unique part of the United States, notably as the only place that ‘seceded where others failed.’
How the Conch Republic was born
The republic formed following a 1982 U.S. Border Patrol blockade. In protest, citizens organized the secession, declared war on the US, then surrendered 60 seconds later and demanded $1 billion in foreign aid. The anniversary of the ‘secession’ is celebrated each year with a program of offbeat events.
41st annual Conch Republic Days: April 21-30
Activities this year include a tall ships sea battle, a parade and a ‘drag’ race for female impersonators.
The Great Conch Republic Drag Race (Saturday, April 22) takes place in the 700 block of Duval St. The wacky challenge typically stars drag queens and intrepid men in dresses, wigs and makeup who sprint down the pavement in high heels.
The secession’s anniversary Sunday, April 23, features a noon reenactment of the historic act of rebellion. Many of the Conch Republic’s founders including Key West’s former mayor, Dennis Wardlow, re-create the 1982 ceremony that marked the republic’s birth.
Thursday, April 27, brings the World’s Longest Parade. Stepping off at 8 pm on Duval Street, the procession is so named because it begins at the Atlantic Ocean and proceeds down the length of Duval to the Gulf of Mexico.
The action moves to Key West Harbor at 7 pm, Friday for the Great Sea Battle of the Conch Republic, featuring weapons ranging from water cannons to flying Cuban bread. Non-combatants can view the spectacle from Mallory Square and harborfront resorts, restaurants and bars.
Landlubbers vie for victory Saturday, April 29, during a charity race featuring ‘strange bedfellows’ piloting decorated beds on wheels along Duval Street.
Other festival attractions include daily tall ship and catamaran sails, a pirate’s ball and other parties.
There is also a wearable art fashion show, and a sailing race that recalls the Florida Keys’ colorful maritime heritage.
Finally, all Conch Republic friends and fans can view Race World Offshore’s inaugural 7 Mile Offshore Grand Prix, a powerboat race beside the historic Seven Mile Bridge in the Middle Keys. Racing is set for Sunday, April 30, with events to culminate in the presentation of the Conch Republic Cup. VIP spectator tickets are available at raceworldoffshore.com.
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