Ode To The Month Of March: The Shell Fair is coming
In Indiana, during the month of March, it’s as if the world stops in recognition of high school basketball and the “Sweet Sixteen.” Now the “Sweet Sixteen” doesn’t refer to attractive young debutantes but rather the sixteen high school teams that make it to the state play-offs.
Discovering how seriously Hoosiers take this tournament was quite an experience. Students at Butler University waited all year for a special formal dance scheduled in March. As a freshman, I remember the excitement building, searching for just the right dress and then of course the obligatory new shoes and jewelry to match. But, when that special night arrived we missed the beginning of the gala because the guys insisted we couldn’t start dancing until half-time. The special outfit didn’t even get noticed, only the score of the game. All this hoopla for high school basketball, I just didn’t get it!
The setting on Sanibel during the month of March is quite different than the corn fields of Indiana but the passion exhibited for shells is every bit as strong as the Hoosier’s obsession with high school basketball. Each year during the first week of March thousands visitors from around the world swarm to the Island to experience the largest and longest running shell show in the world.
The Sanibel Shell Fair and Show is hosted by the Sanibel Community Association and the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club. The 2009 show begins on March 5th and runs through March 7th. The hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. There is no charge for the Shell Fair but there is a three dollar admission donation for the Shell Show, which houses the juried artistic and scientific exhibits. Parking is free. The event takes place at the Sanibel Community House which is at 2173 Periwinkle Way, on Sanibel Island. Questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The show involves scientific and artistic competitions in both amateur and professional categories. In some cases entire shell collections are entered into the contest with the hope of being awarded the coveted “best of show.” Other entries might include single rare shells, common shells with aberrations of some kind, collections focused on specific species of shells or artistic entries such as sailor’s valentines, jewelry, picture frames, furniture and other arts and crafts items.
The artistic judges for the 72nd annual event are Anne Joffe of Sanibel Island and Barbara Lawmaster, of Naples. Emilio F. Garcia, Ph.D. and Harry G. Lee, M.D. will be serving as scientific judges.
The shell exhibits let seasoned collectors share the beauty of nature in other parts of the world, allowing others to live vicariously through their adventures. Workshops and demonstrations take place and the Sanibel School sixth graders led by Museum volunteer Sue Sprout; discuss mollusks as guests stop by the live tank. The show also provides the opportunity for attendees to purchase shells they haven’t been able to find on their strolls down the beach or their travels to other countries.
Outside, on the grounds of the Community Center, vendors make delicious treats available. Inside the Community Center in the Artistic room, artists make sailor’s valentines, lamps, mirrors, flower arrangements, and nautical dcor items available for purchase.
No shell show would be complete without an author’s table. Authors Harlan Wittkopf, Marianne Berkes, S. Peter Dance, and Carol and Bernie Peterson will be available for book signing.
At 2 p.m. on March 4, 2009, The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum will host authors S. Peter Dance and Harlan E. Wittkopf. As co-authors, they are best known for their prolific writing on the subject of shells and the publication of numerous seashell books. Their presentation, entitled “All Seashell Roads Lead To Sanibel,” will be an informal discussion of the importance the island has in the world of seashells. It will feature the personal Sanibel observations each has made over the last 35 years, including shelling tips and stories. They plan to recount their individual relationships with the late R. Tucker Abbott, the Museum’s founding director, and explain how their storybook association unfolded.
A presentation highlight will include the participation of Dr. Tom Walker. Dr. Walker is from England and is the world’s leading authority on seashell stamps. Dr. Walker will visit with the audience and field questions along with Dance and Wittkopf.
At the presentation, Dance will officially unveil his new book, Seashells on My Mind, which is his most personal work. It includes his seashell paintings and poems. Not to be outdone by his friend, Wittkopf will introduce the 5th edition of his ever popular, Sanibel Kaleidoscope. Following the presentation, these two books and others authored by the duo will be offered for sale. Both Dance and Wittkopf will be available for autographs.
On Friday evening, March 6th at 7:30 p.m. the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club and The Bailey-Mathews Shell Museum will host the annual Shell Show Judge’s Program which will be held at the Museum. The speaker will be scientific judge, Emilio F. Garcia, Ph.D., of Louisiana. He will be present a program entitled, “Shell Collecting in the Taumotu Archipelago French Polynesia.” Dr. Garcia has been a professor at the University of Louisiana for thirty-two years and is a widely published shell author. He has served as a shell show judge for programs throughout the United States…
The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum’s annual fundraiser, “Under The Sea,” will be held on Sunday, March 8, 2009 at 5:30 p.m. on the Museum grounds. The gala will begin with a silent auction accompanied by canaps and cocktails. Dinner and dancing will follow. To purchase a ticket call Mary Jo Bunnell at 239-395-2233.
On Monday morning, March 9th, at 10 a.m. The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum will hold their 2009 Membership Meeting in the Museum’s auditorium.