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72nd Shell Fair draws big crowds, much praise

By Staff | Mar 11, 2009

They don’t call Sanibel “The Shell Capital of the World” for nothing!

Last weekend, thousands of shell enthusiasts, hobbyists and professionals made their yearly pilgrimage to the island for the 72nd Annual Sanibel Shell Fair & Show, a three-day extravaganza showcasing some of the most beautiful and rare marine mollusk discoveries.

While some came to witness the world-class exhibition of scientific entries and others came to see what new creative nuances would be seen in the latest crafters’ offerings, most folks strolling the grounds of the Sanibel Community House simply said that they were there because they “love shells.”

“I like shelling on the beach, but sometimes my back doesn’t like it,” said Ronald Pescoe, a visitor from Michigan who attended the show with his wife, Tammy. “Here, you don’t have to do the stoop to see some interesting shells.”

Near the entrance to the show, a booth manned by sixth grade students from The Sanibel School was drawing a steady stream of curious onlookers at an exhibit featuring live shells. Following a period of classes studying the nature, habitat and history of shells, student volunteers shared their knowledge with fair-goers.

“A lightning whelk egg case can take between eight and 10 days to make, and it can contain 6,000 to 12,000 eggs,” John Congress explained to a small crowd.

Later, Congress said that he enjoyed learning about live shells in school and that his favorites were “the ones that can drill a hole in another one and eat its insides.”

In the east parking lot, several tents containing shell vendors were scattered amongst others selling food treats and refreshments. Leslie Anding of the Sanibel Shellcrafters explained that her club works throughout the year in preparation for the annual exhibit.

“We’re here every Monday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., making flowers and sorting shells,” she said while pointing to some of her fellow crafters’ finished pieces. “It takes quite a long time before you can assemble a bouquet.”

Another member of the Shellcrafters, Linda Ledel, noted that she joined the group about seven years ago. During that time, she has witnessed a considerable advancement in both the quality and creativity of the shell products the club prepares for the fair.

“My favorite thing is making flowers and arrangements,” she said, standing at a booth were tiny penguins, pelicans, cowboys and cars – all made completely out of shells – were being offered for sale. “And when you have an arrangement like this, it’s never going to wilt or get old. It’s a permanent floral arrangement.”

“I really enjoy that you can start from almost nothing and make something that’s so beautiful,” Anding added. “It’s a real form of art. This is a very eclectic group and we learn so much from each other.”

Inside the Sanibel Community House, aisles and aisles filled with some of the most remarkable and hard-to-find shell species were on display for the public to enjoy. Throughout the main rooms, ribbons of blue (first place), red (second place), white (third place), yellow (honorable mention) and green (judge’s choice) had been placed next to the most prolific examples and displays of both scientific and artistic entries.

Award winners in the scientific category included:

DuPont Trophy (Most outstanding entry in Classes 1-25) – Gene Everson

C.O.A. Award (Entry which best furthers interest in shells and shell collecting) – Robert & Alice Pace

William Clench Award (Most outstanding and significant exhibit of land or freshwater shells) – Archie Jones

Best Scientific Special Eight (Best exhibit eight feet or less in any class except single shells) – Patricia Linn

Sanibel Shell Fair Perpetual Gold Cup (Best entry in Class 11, Sanibel-Captiva shells – Self-collected) – Kitty Arnold

James VunKannon Award (Best entry in Classes 12 & 13, Florida-Caribbean Shells) – Linda Shockley

Howard Sexauer Perpetual Silver Bowl (Best entry in Class 14, Any area or areas) – Sheila Nugent

S.C.A. Trophy – Best Student Exhibit (Best entry in Classes 1 & 2, Students) – Mark Fastenau

S.C.A. Trophy – Best Sanibel-Captiva Shell (Best entry in Class 3 – Self-collected) – Carol Stafne

S.C.A. Trophy – Best Florida-Caribbean Shell (Best entry in Class 4 – Self-collected) – Robert & Alice Pace

Shell Of Show: Any Source (Best single shell included in any exhibit) – Gene Everson

Shell Of Show: Self-Collected (Best single self-collected shell included in any exhibit) – Robert & Alice Pace

Shell Of Show: Fossil (Best single shell included in any fossil exhibit) – James Brumley, Jr.

Best Of The Blues (Best in Class 26) – Harold & Marguerite Pilcher

Master Trophy (Most outstanding entry in Masters Class 27) – Robert Masino

Judges’ Special Awards (One award by each scientific judge to any exhibit) – Gene Everson

Judges’ Special Awards (One award by each scientific judge to any exhibit) – Archie Jones