77th Annual Sanibel Shell Festival

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By Shelly Sanders

One of the long-standing traditions of Sanibel Island is the annual Shell Festival, put on by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club. Unbelievably, this week’s show will be the 77th. The 77th! The theme for this year’s show is “Treasures of Sanibel.”

This shell festival, which dates back to the late 1920s, has gone from a few shellers relaxing on a porch comparing collection to what is now a nationally-acclaimed event featuring exhibitors from all over the country.

The purpose of the event is to give collectors an opportunity to exhibit their shells and enter their exhibits in the Scientific and Artistic Divisions to compete for the top awards. It’s a great opportunity for all shell lovers to get a glimpse of some of the best specimens around. Not only is the show a fun event, it is also a fundraiser to benefit the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club and its programs:

“Funds raised by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club from admission donations support the grants program. We assist several local educational organizations like The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. The Club also provides scholarship funds to two Florida university marine science departments. “

One of the interesting pieces of history, a product of the shell festival, is something known as the “Shell Table”, an actual table decorated with shells that is donated by the Shell Club and raffled off to raise money each year. There is one particular article that appeared in a local newspaper in the late 1960s that does a good job of telling this special story, summing up for readers the details of the event and the origin of the table. Read the article on the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club website, under Shell Show History.

The event’s founders put together a book called “SHELL HANDBOOK – Conservation, Collecting, Cleaning”, which become widely used and underwent at least three reprints. Though I do not own a copy of the “Shell Handbook” created by the club in the 1960s, I do have a copy of “The Sanibel Shell Guide”, a 1982 release that does a great job covering the many shells that can be found here.

Sanibel Shell Guide

I can’t wait to see all of the different exhibits this year. This event really is a special representation of the island – highlighting its shells, raising money for the community and even involving kids from local schools by allowing them to help educate visitors about the many different shell species displayed.

Shell Show Details:

When – Thursday, March 6 – Saturday, March 8, 2014

Shell Festival Grounds – 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Shell Show Exhibit Hall – 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Where – Sanibel Community House

Cost – Shell Festival Grounds – Free

Donation – A suggested $5 donation will also get you free admission to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum throughout the event

Download the Shell Book for the 77th Annual Sanibel Shell Festival

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