KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — A Colorado man, competing in his late father’s honor, is the winner in the men’s division of the 52nd annual Conch (kahnk) Shell Blowing Contest in Key West.
Michael Cox of Pueblo triumphed by blowing a long, melodic two-toned blast on the fluted, pink-lined shell his father used to win almost 30 years ago. The 38-year-old followed it with an excerpt from George Gershwin 1935 classic “Summertime” played on a smaller shell.
Cox says his father gave him a trumpet when he was a child and he learned how to buzz his lips and play it. He spent two years practicing for his debut in the contest nicknamed the “Conch Honk.”
The contest attracted entrants ranging from age 3 to 77. The group winner was the Boca Chica Conchestra, composed of more than two dozen people who performed a wacky takeoff on the Village People’s “YMCA.”
Entrants were judged on the quality, duration, loudness and novelty of the sounds they made.
Conch shells have been used as signaling devices in the Florida Keys for at least 200 years and the shell is a symbol of the island chain. Native-born islanders are called Conchs, and the Keys are nicknamed the Conch Republic.