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Sanibel is Shellabrating!

By Staff | Feb 24, 2012

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)

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.

“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.

Celebrity Interior Designer and Home Decor Diva Melinda Graham is putting finishing touches on a wedding gown adorned with more than 4,000 seashells designed in conjunction for the staging of a Shell Couture Fashion Show to be held at Sanctuary Golf Club on February 27. (Photo by Bill Schiller)

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.

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.

Rusty Brown will portray Anne Morrow Lindberg, the famed aviator and adventurer who frequently visited Captiva Island during the 1940s and 50s, during a performance staged at The Sanibel Community House on March 4.

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 ““http://www.shellabration2012.com”>www.shellabration2012.com.”