homepage logo

Sanibel Shell Festival scheduled for this weekend

By Staff | Mar 2, 2016

The grounds of the Community House will feature the Shell Festival. PHOTOS PROVIDED

The love of shelling typically attracts up to 6,000 attendees over the course of three days every year who attend the Sanibel Shell Festival.

Sanibel Shell Festival Show Chair and Artistic Chair Mary Burton said this is the 79th consecutive year the festival will be held on Sanibel.

“It actually started at the Island Inn as the first show. That was back in the day when people would come for extended stays and of course shelling was a big part of their adventure. A lot of people who were staying there at the time all knew each other and decided wouldn’t it be fun to have a little show to show people what we found,” Burton said of how the festival began. “It was very informal and held on the porch of the Island Inn.”

At some point along the way the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club became involved and began promoting the event, which resulted in moving it to a larger venue. She said as a result today on the 79th anniversary they have one of the most prestigious and largest shows in the world.

This year the Sanibel Shell Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, March 3, and Friday, March 4, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at the Sanibel Community House, 2173 Periwinkle Way. There is no entrance fee for the festival grounds, but a $5 donation is requested to attend the Shell Show. The donation will grant the attendee free admission to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, an $11 value.

“I enjoy every aspect of it,” Burton said of the festival. “It takes an army of volunteers to get this thing off the ground. Once this show ends within a month we are already working on the next show. To me the greatest joy is to seeing the looks on people’s faces and listening to their comments.”

The event is always held the first weekend of March with the week leading up to Saturday completely dedicated to the Sanibel Shell Festival.

The grounds of the Community House will feature the Shell Festival, which is sponsored by the Sanibel Community Association and Shell Crafters. Through their endeavors of meeting every Monday throughout the year and making arrangements, shell critters and jewelry, Burton said the crafters will sell their items under a huge tent during the three day event.

“They sell mostly Sanibel and Captiva shells and others donated from other places. All the funding they make after overhead is given to the Sanibel Community Association to help maintain the building,” she said.

A large food booth will grace the grounds providing attendees with the opportunity to purchase such foods as ice cream cones, sundaes and hamburgers.

The inside of the Community House will feature the juried, judged shell show, which is sponsored by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club. Burton said they start promoting the show early in the summer, which begins to attract exhibitors.

The scientific division of the judged show centers around what the shell club is all about – promotion and education of the mollusks from around the world.

“You stand there and look at these shells and you can’t wrap your head around the fact that this was created. This was a living creature at one time,” she said.

The show also includes an artistic division. She said it promotes the diversity of the art that you can create from shells and sea life.

“I have been doing this now for probably 10 years and it never seizes to amaze me of what these people do with these shells,” Burton said.

The Sailors Valentine is among the popular creations for the artistic division.

“Our professional artists and our hobbyist, their Valentines are absolutely breathtaking. When you are looking at one of those, just remember everything you are seeing is created from a shell and sea life and it takes a lot of imagination and perspective on the part of that artist to formulate the idea and put it all together,” she said. “It is not uncommon for an artist to have two to 300 hours in a valentine. Once people understand this is made from shells and sea life it really gives them a different perspective.”

Bill Jordan, a shell artist, will provide presentations on the stage of the Community House throughout the day regarding the history of a Sailor’s Valentine.

Burton said the exhibitors who enter the show all have one thing in common from the beginning – a love for shells.

“We all come through that door and we are already linked because of our common interest in the shell world. To continue the legacy of the shells, the people that come to the show are just blown away by it – that to me is the greatest reward,” she said. “We strive to educate, to entertain, to get people involved and to continually promote the art of shell art and the science of shells.”

The festival will also showcase an Authors Table, which will feature books regarding shelling, shell crafting, or Sanibel and Captiva.

Staff from the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum will also be present at the show. One of the focal points, Burton said is the live shell tank, which is manned by students who continuously give talks about the species of the tank throughout the three days.

Videos will also be shown about mollusks and how they create their shells, eat, move, protect themselves and reproduce.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to participate in a raffle for $5, or three tickets for $10. The prizes include a Sailor’s Valentine by Pamela Boynton; a week’s stay at a ‘Tween Waters; a sea life jewelry creation from Congress Jewelers; a blue ribbon floral arrangement by Lucy Read; and a day on Sanibel – beach walk with the Shell Museum marine biologist, admission to the museum and lunch at the Island Cow, and a sand dollar “Shellograph” canvas by Pam Rambo.

“It raises money to put into that dear old building to keep it running,” Burton said of the proceeds going towards The Community House.

The shell crafters and shell club will be selling T-shirts, all about shelling, this year.

All of the money raised during the Shell Show, after overhead is deducted, is given back in grants and scholarships for the education of malacology. The club also sponsors Adopt A Class through the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, as well as the museum itself.

“Our money isn’t spent frivolously,” Burton said.

For more information, visit www.sanibelcaptivashellclub.com.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.