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Sanibel is Shellabrating!

February 24, 2012
By Bill Schiller ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Sanibel Island's 75th observance of Shellabration, an annual celebration of shells, shell craft and shell-related shenanigans launched with the staging of what may prove to be a new Guinness World Record for widest public participation in a treasure-hunting activity. The treasure, in this case, were shells shellacking the shoreline at Bowman's Beach. An estimated 800 to 1000 people convened to create what history will now chronicle as the most stupendous of Sanibel Stoops, affirms Sanibel Community Association (SCA) President Marge Meek.

"It is amazing what people will do just to be in the Guinness Book of World Records," says Meek, noting that, in one case, a family from Kentucky drove 15-hours straight through day and night just to participate in the event.

While Meek says that many wanted to secure their respective claims to a world record category, for others, it was simply about supporting the community as well as the Sanibel Community Association which ultimately benefits from proceeds raised throughout Shellabration.

Article Photos

The scene at Bowman's Beach when an estimated 800 to 1000 people amassed for the most stupendous of Sanibel Stoops; what may soon be determined to be a new Guinness World Record for public participation in a treasure-hunting activity, staged as part of Shellabration 2012. (Photo by Bill Schiller)

"We had no idea how many people were going to turn-out to help for this event, and it was good to see so many joining-in," says Meek.

After gathering at the beach, participants awaited instruction for that pivotal moment when a photographer in helicopter fly-over captured images of all who had amassed to search for shells. With megaphone in his hand, SCA Volunteer and President of Pfeifer Realty Group, Eric Pfeifer, sounded like something between a drill sergeant and aerobic instructor, "OK - Everybody! You need to get your heads down and your butts up in the air," commanded Pfeifer when the helicopter approached. Participants wen on to don that particular posture which is known as the Sanibel Stoop. Meek says SCA volunteers are now completing the paperwork which will be submitted to officials with Guinness and by sometime, perhaps as early as May, she anticipates Sanibel will receive confirmation of setting a new world record.

The orchestration of that event was followed over the weekend with an opening gala that was complemented with musical performances by a 14-piece orchestra conducted by Tom Triatta. Held at Sanctuary Golf Club, attendants danced and delighted in the indulgence of a specially prepared dinner that included "Shellabration" chocolate deserts. The evening included an auctioning of the original Shellabration painting created by Artist Pam Broderson. Gala Co-coordinator Cynthia Crocker says it is remarkable to consider how this local event has grown over 75 years. There was a time when only a few people on Sanibel came together to showcase their shell collections on a single table, says Crocker. Today, the event not only attracts visitors from around the world, but pays homage to the history of the entire Sanibel community.

Fact Box

Shuffle Here in Shellabration

BAILEY-MATTHEWS SHELL MUSUEM: free admission to the Museum on Monday, February 27, 2012.

BIG ARTS: Show your Shell Smarts at BIG ARTS! During Shell Fair week, between February 27 and March 3, visitors are invited to bring a shell to BIG ARTS Center at 900 Dunlop Road, or BIG ARTS at 2244 Periwinkle Way (by the Sanibel Bean), or the Herb Strauss Theater at 2200 Periwinkle Way, (directly across from the Shell Fair). Identify the shell, add it to our collection, and receive special discounted ticket pricing on select BIG ARTS programs from February 27 through March 3. In addition, the Sanibel-Captiva Art League will have a special shell-themed exhibit in the Herb Strauss Theater lobby.

THE SANIBEL PUBLIC LIBRARY: Shell Book Reading and Fossil Shell Display offering more than 350 shell-related books. In addition, favorite titles and rare books from the Reference Collection will be on display on the Main Level of the Library throughout February and March. Fossil Shell Display Library Ground Floor: 120 different species, ages thousands to as much as 5 million years old. Some of the shells are extinct and some are found at the beach today. The fossils are from the Burnt Store area is in North Fort Myers. For 10,000 years the area has been dry land. Before that, during the Pliocene and Pleistocene eras it was at times a shallow bay of what is now the Gulf of Mexico. When stockpiling this fill on the Library building site in the early 1990s, the material was observed to be full of marine fossils, evidence of the abundant life of the ancient sea.

DING DARLING: Ranger-led Beach Walks at the Refuge's Perry Tract at Gulfside Park

Shell-related Reading at the Refuge session with shell craft (Friday-Sat) 11:00 am

Blair Witherington author of "Florida's Living Beaches" to give the lecture on March 2.

SANIBEL HISTORICAL MUSEUM: several shell collections on display throughout Shellabration week inside the Rutland Home, Burnap Cottage, Morning Glories and the Schoolhouse.

Shellers Can Revel at these Retailers

AMY'S SOMETHING SPECIAL: 15% discount on locally made shell pendants that are wrapped in sterling silver.

BILLY's BIKE AND RENTALS: All customers (on-line and in-store) receive a raffle ticket for a chance to own a signed Shellabration poster designed by artist Pam Brodersen.

CHEEBURGER CHEEBURGER: Kids coloring contest for 12 and under. Come in and color special Cheeburger Shellabration coloring pages for a chance to win Cheeburger prizes.

EILEEN FISHER: Free gift with a purchase of a Shell "tank-top" at Eileen Fisher on Sanibel.

GREAT WHITE GRILL: "Shellabraton Beer" will be available during Shellabration week, look for beer specials all week long.

JB DESIGNS: Cards designed by local Artist Boyd Johnson of Sanibel. FREE Sanddollar with purchase of $20.00 or more during Shellabration week.

RS WALSH LANDSCAPING: will be offering a nice selection of ceramic and terra cotta planters in a variety of shell shapes, suitable for orchids or small tropical arrangements. Staff will be on hand to assist you in design and planting of your arrangement. There are also a variety of larger glazed pottery in shell shapes and pretty ocean colors available.

SANIBEL SEA SHELLS: Stop by to play a round of scavenger jeopardy. Visit online at

SANIBEL SOLE: 15% off any shell jewelry.

SHE SELLS SEA SHELLS: 25% off Craft Supplies that include; wood and paper mache boxes and frames, along with many other paper and wood items, glue, glaze, glitter, glass jars, and mirror backs. Sailor's Valentine Sale; Regular price $275 will be reduced to $75. 10 Inches, traditional antique flower design with a multi colored shell. Limited quantities.

SHINY OBJECTS: Guests will receive a free shell tote bag with purchases over $50. Additionally, select jewelry items will include the customer's choice of shell jewelry or trinket box. Restrictions apply, see store for details.

SYNERGY: Buy $50 worth of Life is good merchandise and receive a free pair of select shell, starfish or seahorse earrings.

TARPON BAY RECREATION: Free touch tank demo

TOWER GALLERY: A special exhibit opening February 26 and continuing through March 31. More than 20 Tower Gallery Artists have chosen a shell to inspire their artwork. Photographs of the selected shells will be displayed beside the art showing how the artist interpreted or included it in their work.

WATSON MACRAE GALLERY: "Sea Shells" Invitational Exhibition will be a special week-long exhibit featuring the work of invited Sanibel artists and focusing on The Shells of Sanibel and the Sea. There will be an Opening Reception celebrating the artwork and artists on Monday, February 27th which is open to the public. The gallery will also feature shell insired pottery and glass from artists around the country during the Shellabration.

WILLIAM E. WILSON FINE JEWELRY: All signature 14-karat gold shell design jewelry-bracelets, pendants, earrings, rights offered at special sale prices: A 25% discount will be given during the entire week of the 75th Shell Fair & Show.

75th Shell Fair and Show

Shellabration is best know for shining a spotlight on hundreds of shell collections and displays of shell craft that will be exhibited March 1st through March 3rd at The Community House.

Shell Couture

Another highlight this year will be the Shell Couture Fashion Show conducted at The Sanctuary Golf Club (11:00 a.m. on February 27). The luncheon event includes a fashion competition for designing the most sensational of shell-adorned attire. Fashion entries for the event have remained closely guarded secrets by most designers. Melinda Graham, an author, interior designer and crafting-queen whose talents have garnered tributes in national magazines and television networks such as NBC, HGTV and the Discovery Channel, offered a sneak peak at a wedding dress she has created for the show.

A modification on classic mermaid design, the wedding dress is constructed from vintage lace and yards-upon-yards of tulle and satin. The embellishments consist of several different varieties of shells, beads and pearls which originate from Graham's own collection of shells gathered from Sanibel beaches. "But even my collection was no match for this gown," she says. "I had to order thousands of additional tiny shells to add to the dress."

There are currently some 3000 to 4000 shells on the gown, and each has been hand polished. Graham is also creating a bride's maid and flower girl's dress for the event. Though renowned for her fashion sensibilities in home decor, this event will mark Graham's entry into fashion design. "This has been a new and exciting challenge that I have jumped into head-first with absolutely no regrets," she says.

Final Act

Shellabration 2012 will draw to a close with the opening of presentations by Rusty Brown and a staged tribute to the life of Anne Morrow Lindberg.

A frequent visitor to Captiva Island in the 1940s and 50s, Lindberg achieved world acclaim as an aviator, adventurer and author. Brown's theatrical characterization reportedly captures Anne Lindberg's extraordinary spirit, courage and calming presence. "In Celebration of Anne Morrow Lindbergh" is to be followed by what organizers describe as the most-incredible of ice cream socials. The ice cream here will be accompanied with an array of themed-toppings; from Cherry Junonia and Buttercup Bananas Foster to Slipper Shell Salted Caramel.

The Lindberg show and ice cream social takes place March 4, 2012, at The Sanibel Community House. Admission is $20 for members and $22 for guests.

For tickets or more information on any of the activities associated with Shellabration 2012, visit The Sanibel Community House at 2173 Periwinkle Way, or phone (239) 472-2155. Information can also be found Online at ""



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