provided to Santiva Chronicle
Shell collecting is the second most popular collecting hobby in the world. Only stamp collectors outnumber shell collectors. The word “seashells” is synonymous with “Sanibel” and shell enthusiasts have come from around the United States, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, India, Japan and the Caribbean to the Sanibel Shell Festival in order to compete in the longest running and most prestigious competitive Shell Show in the country.
Winning an award at this show means you have “reached the top.” In 2019, ribbon winners came from 60 different cities in 23 different states and four countries. This year is the 83rd Annual Shell Festival. It will be held March 5, 6 and 7.
What can you expect to see at the Shell Festival? Shells, of course, but not only those you might find them on our beaches. Shells that come from around the world can be seen in fascinating exhibits and exquisite works of art, such as floral bouquets and the ever-popular Sailor’s Valentines.
Ever wondered what mollusks (a live shell) eat, how they move, protect themselves or reproduce? The answers can be found in the exhibit hall, where continually playing documentaries filmed on Sanibel Island explain it all. 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.
The Community House grounds are continually a bustle of activity. Don’t miss the ongoing shell crafting demonstrations. Visitors may have the opportunity to make their own shell flowers or shell animals.
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.
While there is no entrance fee to the Shell Festival grounds, a $5 donation is requested to attend the inside Shell Show. Anyone who makes the requested donation will also be granted a half-price admission to The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum during the Shell Festival. The Shell Museum is the only museum in the country dedicated solely to shells and mollusks, the animals that create shells. You won’t want to miss the extensive exhibits and the hands-on activities.
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 Department of Marine & Ecological Science. All the funds raised by the outdoor activities go to the maintenance of the Sanibel Community House.
The Shell Festival is held at the Sanibel Community House, 2173 Periwinkle Way. Hours for the Festival are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.. For more information go to the Shell Show website.