Conch Republic Weekend in Key West
Enjoying the fun of the Key West Independence Weekend
The last week of April marks the anniversary of the Conch Republic in the Florida Keys. The week long celebration, that is also considered a holiday weekend in the Keys, invites visitors to the town of Key West to watch and partake in the fun and festivities amongst the town’s local characters.
A Brief History of the Conch Republic
The Conch Republic was formed on April 23rd, 1982 after a United States Border Patrol set up a blockade on US1 just to the north of the Florida Keys. The roadblock and check point portrayed Keys residents as non-U.S. citizens and forced them to prove their citizenship in order to drive onto the Florida mainland. Keys residents protested, going to the Federal court in Miami to seek an injunction against the blockade, but did not win. The following day, the Mayor and Council of Key West declared the city’s independence from the United States. They felt that since the government had set up a border station as if they were a foreign nation, they might as well become one.
They immediately declared war on the US by breaking a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of a man dressed in a U.S. Navy uniform. However, after only one minute of the tongue in cheek rebellion, the Mayor turned to the Admiral in charge of the Navy Base at Key West and surrendered. The mock secession generated great publicity for the Keys’ plight and the roadblock was removed soon afterward. It resulted in increased tourism for the Keys and the new nation took the name of the Conch Republic, in reference to the local citizens who were referred to as Conchs.
A Week Long Celebration
Key West does not need an excuse to throw a party. Throughout the year the town hosts infamous celebrations such as Fantasy Fest and Spring Break. The Conch Republic week is more family orientated however, with reenactments of the days proceedings from April 1982 and the battle between the US Navy and the Conch Republic. Throughout the week there is air force displays, bar crawls, bed races down Duval Street and street block parties with music, food and even conga lines.
Friday nights festivities took place at Mallory Square to watch the Conch Republic locals battle for their beloved Key West against the US Navy. Described as ‘the most brazen battle of the year, where the only thing you will lose is your sanity’, all ships are welcome at sunset to jet water at the huge Navy ship that comes to battle with them. To the delight of the crowds, the Navy was drenched in streams of constant water by ships bearing the Conch flag. Cheering and waving, the Key West locals put on a fantastic show in front of a beautiful Key West sunset.
Bed Racing down Duval Street
On the following day, once again the crowds turned up to watch the infamous Bed Race down Duval Street. Police close the street completely for this race, allowing the teams of beds to come tearing down the road at full speed, starting at one end of Duval and finishing up at the Bourbon Street Bar. Described by locals as ‘the most fun you can have in bed with your clothes on’, the bed races raise money for charity and bring almost everyone in town to watch and laugh as they dash past.
The Conch Republic calls this week their own July 4th, Bastille Day and Cinco de Mayo celebration all rolled into one. Visiting Key West should be on everyone’s list if they are spending time in South Florida, and this week is certainly one of the highlights in the Key West calendar. Local characters happily mix with tourists in this corner of the continental United States, so if you do find yourself near the Keys, come and enjoy a day exploring the area. They may not host bed races year round but there is always something fun to see and do in Key West.
Want to go to Key West?
MiamiBeach411.com offers daily tours to Key West from Miami for both day and overnight trips. The drive down to the Keys is beautiful, traveling over water for most of the way down including the famous seven mile bridge. The bus departs first thing in the morning which gives you the whole day to sight see, tour and explore. You can even fit in a snorkeling trip during the day if you choose. We offer both private and group tours so please follow this link for more information or give us a call on 1-888-999-8931
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