Thar she blows! Canadian woman wins Key West conch contest

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In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Michael Wachter, left, and Georgann Wachter perform during the Conch Shell Blowing Contest, Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Key West, Fla. The couple won the contest's group division by parodying Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" in an offbeat duet for voice and conch shell. Organized by the Old Island Restoration Foundation, the contest is a Key West tradition that began in 1972. The conch shell is a symbol of the Florida Keys. (Mary Martin/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

A Canadian woman and a pediatric cardiologist from Georgia won the men's and women's contests at Key West's annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest, using different techniques to impress Saturday's judges.

Brian Cardis of Macon, Georgia, played the Jimmy Buffett song “Fins” on a a pink-lined conch shell with holes so it can be played like a flute, while Carol Whiteley of Ontario, Canada, blew a long, loud blast with her shell to best other competitors.

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Cardis said he began blowing the marine mollusk shell about 10 years ago during a family visit to Key West, adapting techniques he learned playing the trumpet as a child.

“You sort of have to just buzz your lips when you’re blowing into it,” Cardis said. “You have to make a ‘pffft’ noise with your lips in order to generate the sound.”

Whiteley said she plays the shell at her riverside home to celebrate sunsets.

Judges evaluated entrants ranging from children to seniors on the quality, novelty, duration and loudness of sounds they produced.

Other winners included Michael and Georgann Wachter, a couple from Avon Lake, Ohio, who performed a conch-shell-and-vocal duet parodying Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” that drew cheers and laughter from spectators.

The conch shell, an enduring symbol of the Florida Keys, has been used as a maritime signaling device in the region for more than two centuries. The island chain is nicknamed the Conch Republic.

The contest was conceived by the Old Island Restoration Foundation in 1972 and took place in the garden of Key West’s Oldest House Museum.

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