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Shell Fair planners already preparing for 2012 exhibit

By Staff | Dec 29, 2010

While plans for the 74th Annual Sanibel Shell Fair & Show — to be held March 3, 4 and 5 at the Sanibel Community House — are already in full swing, some islanders are already giddy with anticipation for the staging of the diamond anniversary showcase in 2012.

Back in 1937, Hallie “Granny” Matthews, a beloved Sanibel Island matriarch, opened her Island Inn to visiting shell-lovers, who displayed their collections on the porches of their hotel rooms and cottages.

Every year, she would hold a shell show in the hotel’s lobby, which is how the long tradition of shell fairs began on Sanibel, known around the world for it’s cache of diverse and beautiful sea shells.

So when the Shell Fair & Show stages it’s 75th anniversary in 2012, plans call for the expansion of the traditional three-day weekend exhibition to a full weeklong celebration, running from Feb. 26 through March 3.

“We’re going to fill this island with shells,” said Marge Meek, event chair for the Sanibel Community Association, which oversees the Community House. “You might see people running around in crazy shell costumes, and there’ll be shell flags at all the places of the business that are participating. We’re working on creating Shellabration packages at the resorts. There’s no end to what fun we can have with the whole shell theme.”

“Shellabration 2012,” as the event has been dubbed, will include the usual three-day fair and show, plus special lectures at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, a major stage program at BIG Arts, shell authors and children’s shell-related activities at the Sanibel Public Library.

In addition, there will be special shell merchandise sold in island shops, creative shell fish dishes in local restaurants, unique contests and — according to Ann Arnoff, Shell Fair & Show co-chairperson — “a prevailing sense of shell-madness throughout the week.”

“It will be a shell of a good time!” added Anne Joffe, president of the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club and chairperson of the Shell Fair & Show.

However, the 2012 showcase is still more than 14 months away. And, as event organizers promise, the 2011 version of the fair will offer everything shellers from around the globe come to Sanibel for.

While some attendees come to witness the world-class exhibition of scientific entries, others want to see what new creative nuances amongst the latest crafters’ offerings.

The hours of the 74th Annual Shell Fair & Show are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, March 3 and 4, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 5.

This show is a juried show, both in scientific exhibits following categories, as well as the largest display of shell art anywhere, also judged. There is a small admission fee to the indoor show.

The Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club was founded in 1963 by 12 members of the island community. Today, the club has more than 100 members and is the only shell club to fully fund a student through graduate school into a PhD program at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.

In addition, they award scholarships to several marine institutions, including the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. The club raises funds drawn from the proceeds of the Sanibel Shell Show, one of the island’s most popular and well-attended events.

For more information, write to the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club, P.O. Box 255, Sanibel, FL 33957, call Anne Joffe at 472-3151 or send an e-mail to sanibelchiton@aol.com.