Conch Republic Independence Celebration

Conch Republic Independence Celebration

Week including April 23
In 1982 the United States Border Patrol set up a roadblock on U.S. Highway 1, just north of the Florida Keys. The new checkpoint created massive traffic jams, threatened the region's tourist industry, and angered residents of the Keys, who resented having to prove their American citizenship each time they attempted to drive to the Florida mainland.
On April 23, 1982, after trying in vain to get the courts to stop the blockade, the residents of the Florida Keys, under the leadership of Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow, seceded from the United States of America. Wardlow announced that the Florida Keys would henceforth become an independent nation known as the Conch Republic. The besieged Republic maintained the secession for one minute, after which time Wardlow surrendered to the United States Navy and called for $1 billion in foreign aid and war relief to restore the damage done to the Keys by the federal government. Though the Republic didn't last, the stunt succeeded in pressuring the U.S. government to lift the roadblocks. Indeed, the motto of the tiny nation later became "we seceded where others failed."
Each year lighthearted residents of the Keys celebrate the short-lived independence of the Conch Republic, which they affirm still exists as a "state of mind." The festival takes place for an entire week surrounding April 23. It features conch-blowing contests, real drag races—in which drag queens race each other down the street—a reenactment of the secession, mock naval battles, bed races, food and crafts booths, a pancake-eating contest, numerous public parties held in bars and clubs, and more.
CONTACTS:
The Conch Republic Office of the Secretary General
509 Whitehead St., Ste. 1
Key West, FL 33040
305-296-0213; fax: 305-296-8803
www.conchrepublic.com