The Shell Festival offers a wide variety of shell creations. Shell Club photo
The Shell Festival offers a wide variety of shell creations. Shell Club photo

Shell enthusiasts from around the United States, Canada, and other foreign countries will head to Sanibel Island for the 79th Annual Sanibel Shell Festival on March 3-5.

The Sanibel Community House grounds are continually a bustle of activity. Don’t miss the ongoing shell crafting demonstrations in the Creations Tent. Visitors can have the opportunity to make their own shell-flowers or shell animals. This tent also showcases the artists who create award-winning floral arrangements and other shell art. They are happy to talk about their craft with anyone.

The Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club sponsored Shell Show is an integral part of the Sanibel Shell Festival and provides visitors an opportunity to view shells from around the world, as well as breath-taking artistic creations made entirely from shells and sea life. This judged Shell Show is the longest running and most prestigious Shell Show in North America. The competition is open to all shell collectors and artisans, and award winners have come from as far away as New Zealand, India, Japan and the Caribbean. The Shell Show is held inside the Sanibel Community House.

Shell artist Bill Jordan will be giving presentations on the stage of the Community House throughout the day about the history of Sailors’ Valentines, beautiful works of art that are as popular today as they were in the 1800’s.

Recent northwest winds have stranded thousands of live shells on Sanibel’s beaches. Learn more about them by watching two documentaries that were filmed on our beaches. These films will also be shown on the Community House stage. In the same hall, books, jewelry and shells are for sale.

The Author’s Table features local authors who will be on hand throughout the festival for book signings and to talk about their books with visitors.

Throughout the winter, volunteers meet at the Sanibel Community House to sort donated seashells. If you love shells but you don’t have the time to look for them on the beach or clean them, head for the Shell Tent. Literally, thousands of shells are for sale and prices start at 25 cents. Large, impressive shells and fossils are also for sale.

Next door to the Shell Tent, the Sanibel Shell Crafters can be found selling shell jewelry, mirrors, flower arrangements and “shell critters.” The crafters meet every Monday at the Community House throughout the year to make the objects that are sold at the festival.

The “Live Tank” area is where the Sanibel Elementary School 6th graders shine. For two months prior to the Sanibel Shell Festival, the students study about shells and mollusks, the animals that create the shells. If they pass the course test, they have the opportunity to share their knowledge with the visitors while they view multiple aquariums containing live mollusks.

A $5 or (3) for $10 donation to the Sanibel Community Association may win you: 

– A Sailor’s Valentine created by award winning artist, Pamela Boynton

– A week’s stay at a Sanibel-Captiva Beach Resort

– A Sea Life jewelry creation from Congress Jewelers

– A blue-ribbon winning floral arrangement by Shellcrafter, Lucy Read

– A Day on Sanibel - beach walk with a Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum marine biologist, admission to the Museum, and lunch at the Island Cow

– A sand dollar “Shellograph” canvas by Pam Rambo

While there is no entrance fee to the Shell Festival grounds, a $5 donation is requested to attend the inside Shell Show. Anyone who gives the requested donation will also be granted free admission to The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum during the Shell Festival, an $11 value.

All the funds raised by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club are given in the form of grants to several local marine education and conservation organizations and for scholarship funds at the University of South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University Departments of Marine & Ecological Science. All the funds raised by the outdoor activities go to the maintenance of the Sanibel Community House.

Hours for the Festival Grounds are 9 am.-5 p.m. except Saturday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information (239) 472-2155 or go to https://sites.google.com/site/sanibelshellfestival/.