The Conch Republic

Photo Credit: The Conch Republic Facebook

Conch (kongk): any variety of large, spiral-shaped mollusks; the shell of which is used especially in cameos. When capitalized, Conch: a native or resident of the Florida Keys.

Drive past the Last Chance Saloon on US 1 in Florida City, and you’ve just entered a new country. Well, sort of. That country is the Northernmost Territories of The Conch Republic. Don’t worry. You don’t have to show your passport, but that wasn’t always the case.

For some strange reason, back in 1982, the U.S. federal government border patrol had deemed it altogether fitting and proper to establish a border-type roadblock 100 miles within U.S. territory to check for illegal immigrants, drug smuggling, and heaven knows what else. Nearly every car was stopped and searched, resulting in a 17-mile-long traffic jam on the only road connecting the Keys to mainland Florida. Getting to and from the Keys became one giant hassle, and tourism to the area plummeted. Not to mention residents of the Keys were made to feel like outcasts or criminals, having to show passports to travel within their own state.

Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow headed a three-man delegation to federal court in Miami, asking for an end to the blockade. After thoughtful deliberation to consider all the legalities, the court told Mayor Wardlow, “No.” Faced with a government not willing to give equal rights to all, Wardlow announced to the growing number of television and newspaper media gathering outside the courtroom, “Tomorrow at noon the Florida Keys will secede from the Union.”

Rob O’Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/AP photo

At noon the following day, in a one-page proclamation of secession read at Mallory Square, he spoke simply for all his fellow Conchs, stating, “That’s our flag. It has a conch on it. We secede from the United States.” And, with that, the new Prime Minister of the Conch Republic declared war on the United States, demonstrated by breaking stale Cuban bread over a man dressed in a Naval uniform. After one full minute of “war, “Prime Minister Wardlow surrendered to the U.S. Forces (to the same guy in the Naval uniform, actually) and demanded millions of dollars in postwar foreign aid. While the government immediately took down the roadblock, Conchs are still waiting for the aid.

And thus, the quirky Conch Republic was born, April 23, 1982. Wardlow was quoted in a statement to a member of the Foreign Ministry as saying, “It is our function as the Conch Republic to be the Joker in the deck. You may not always want to play with us, but we must be there, otherwise, you’re not playing with a full deck.” For over 36 years, this Conch micronation has governed with humor, warmth, and respect in a world in sore need of all three.

Every year since then, we Conchs have come together for an annual celebration of our independence. This year, the 10-day celebration will take place from Friday, April 20th to Monday, April 30th and shine a light on everything that makes Key West fun and unique.

Where were you on April 23, 1982? If any of you were lucky enough to be in Key West to witness the unfolding of this historic event that would travel around the world at warp speed in a pre-internet age, we would love to hear your story! Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Instagram! Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get more tips and tricks.

Happy Birthday to us!

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Beach Bag Essentials

Photo by Salvador Martin Yeste on Unsplash

What’s the best part of living in Florida? Random Beach Days! Whenever we feel the need for some extra vitamin D, we grab our bag full of beach essentials and head down to our local spot. While our bag is always packed are ready to go by the door, we know it can be easy to forget the essentials, especially when you’re here on vacation.

We’ve put together our beach bag essentials list to make your vacation stress and sunburn free! 

The perfect beach bag.

Beach Bag – It all starts with the perfect beach bag. Your bag needs to be big enough to fit all of your essentials, but not too big that it becomes too heavy to carry. Your bag should be water, sand, and sun resistant too. Look for a durable material like nylon or canvas because those will withstand any situation. If you can, we also suggest getting a bag with an attached coin purse. The little zipper pocket is a great place to store your id, cell phone and keys. 

Sunscreen  – While sunscreen is something you should be applying every day, when you go to the beach you have to take extra care to protect your skin. Make sure your sunscreen is broad spectrum, has an SPF of 15 or above (we suggest SPF 30), and is water-resistant. Don’t forget an SPF in your lip balm — you won’t like sunburned lips. Pro tip: We set a timer on our phone to remind us to reapply, every 80 minutes if we’re swimming and every two hours if we’re not.

Hat, Sunglasses, Umbrella – Sunscreen isn’t enough to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. We always keep a floppy hat and sunglasses in our bag. These two items will give your face the extra protection it needs. A beach umbrella is also a must. While we love basking in the sun like the next person, but every now and then we crave a break from the powerful sun. An umbrella will give you a cool place to rest.

Reading Material – There are so many things to do at the beach. You can swim, play beach volleyball, and build sand castles. But just in case you get bored, we suggest bringing some reading material. Whether it’s your favorite book or your favorite glossy magazine, having something to read is a beach bag must! 

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Water & Snacks – We don’t know why, but a day at the beach takes a lot of energy. Even if you’re just sunbathing, a few hours in the sun can suck the energy right out of you. To fix this, we always keep a few water bottles and snacks in our bag. Our snacks of choice are Publix Subs, trail mix, and protein bars. If you have extra space if your car, we suggest putting your water and snacks in a cooler.

Towel & Baby Powder – We keep two towels in our bag. One for laying out on, the other to dry off with. We also keep baby power in our bag because it makes being sand free easy. When you’re almost ready to leave, sprinkle some baby powder on your skin. The powder will soak up any extra moisture left on your skin. After a few moments, wipe it away and voila! You’re now powder and sand free!

After Sun Products – Saltwater and the sun can really dry out your skin so it’s important to use an after sun product to refresh your skin. Our Save A Tan is the perfect solution. Not only will it restore moisture to your skin, it will also prevent peeling and preserve your tan.

Did we miss one of your beach bag essentials? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter! Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get more tips and tricks.

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Key West Happenings: January 2018

The fun never stops in Key West. From eating your weight in seafood to running it all off a day later there is an event for every type. Don’t miss these popular festivities in Key West this January.

36th Annual Key West Literary Seminar; January 11th – 14th, 2018

Key West Literary Seminar. Photos: Unsplash

Join the Key West Literary Seminar as they examine important works of literature that have emerged from the island nations of the Caribbean. Speakers include Naomi Jackson, Jamaica Kincaid and Robert Antoni.

13th Annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival; January 13th – 14th, 2018

Photo: 13th Annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival

Come experience some of the best seafood you’ll ever eat at the 13th Annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival. Along with a Key West inspired menu, there will be celebrity chef demonstrations, hands-on eco activities, a boat show and live entertainment.

Key West Half Marathon & 5k Run; January 14th, 2018

Key West Half Marathon & 5k Run. Photo: Unsplash

After you’ve had your fill of seafood, wake up bright and early and join thousands of people as they run a Half Marathon & 5k. The course will take you through the island’s Victorian architecture, historic landmarks and harborfront business. We think this is one of the best ways to get a tour of Key West.

Key West Food & Wine Festival; January 24th – 28th, 2018

Photo: Key West Food & Wine Festival

If wine is more of your style, stick around for the Key West Food & Wine Festival. This five-day festival is full of wine and food-themed events showcasing a diverse range of wines and inventive cuisine.

You can find more events on the Monroe County Tourist Development Council Event Calendar.

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Best Places to Shop in Old Town Key West

Welcome To Key West
Photo: Flickr – Cayobo

One of the best things about Key West is its diversity and its support of small businesses. While there are big brands located on the island like Ron Jon Surf Shop and Banana Republic, those big names are outnumbered by locally owned businesses. And like the people of the island, the local shops are unique and cater to the true, Key West lifestyle.

You can find whatever your heart desires in Key West. With so many great stores, it can be hard to decide which ones you must stop at during your visit. We’ve narrowed down the list for you to the top 5 shops in Old Town Key West you can’t miss.

Welcome to Mallory Square
Photo: Flickr – Sam Howzit

Mallory Square

Mallory Square has always been an important part of Key West with its history stretching back to the early 1820’s. Back then, the area was home to the Tift family warehouse where the famous Asa Tift could store his goods found from shipwrecks off the coast of Florida. Now the area is home to over 30 shops and hosts the nightly art festival “Sunset Celebration.” One of our favorite shops located in Mallory Square is the Shell Warehouse. Inside, you can find great souvenirs that like empty conch shells and sand dollars. These shells make great gifts for both friends and family and are a great way to remember your Key West Vacation.

Photo: Books & Books

Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West

So many great writers have called Key West home – Ernest Hemingway, Tennesse Williams and Robert Frost. With all of these iconic writers living on the island, it stands to reason that we would have a great bookstore to share their stories. Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West is that bookstore. Books & Books is a “locally-owned, nonprofit, independently-minded neighborhood bookstore” that is dedicated to curating a selection of books turned to the interest and reading habits of the island. Pop into the former Masonic Temple to browse over 5 thousand titles and see what Conch’s are currently reading!

Kino Sandals 

Floridians live in sandals all year long. Conchs live in Kino Sandals handmade in the Greene Street factory. If you or your loved ones are looking for a comfortable and durable shoe then look no further than Kino Sandal. These sandals are made only in Key West using leather straps and natural rubber seals. Selecting your perfect Kino is like selecting a shoe made just for your feet. Pop by and check it out yourself. We bet you’ll leave it a pair… or two.

Key Lime Pie Factory

A trip to Key West is not complete until you’ve had key lime pie. While there are many places on the island where you can get key lime pie, our favorite spot is the Key Lime Pie Factory. They sell key lime pie by the slice and other goodies that will last longer than the pie. Located on Greene Street, you can grab a slice of pie before heading to Mallory Square for Sunset Celebration.

Photo: Key West Aloe

Key West Aloe

We know we’re a little biased here but Key West Aloe is a must for anyone visiting the Keys. Not only do we sell Aloe Vera based skin care products that will soothe and nourish your sunkissed skin, we also sell anti-aging products that will never tell your age and let you make your own Tropical Salt Scrub! Our Greene Street Store is located in the historic Telegraph Office and just a few steps away from the other shops on this list. Stop in to experience the Key West Aloe Difference.

Did we miss your favorite spot to shop in Old Town Key West? Let us know in the comments below!

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