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Conch Republic to Celebrate 34th 'Birthday' April 22 Through May 1
Keys History

Image 1 - In the Great Battle for the Conch Republic, sea dogs and wenches on tall ships and other vessels combat "evil federal forces" in an on-the-water skirmish that the republic always wins.

In the Great Battle for the Conch Republic, sea dogs and wenches on tall ships and other vessels combat "evil federal forces" in an on-the-water skirmish that the republic always wins.

Image 2 - The festival's oldest highlight is the Conch Republic Red Ribbon Bed Race.

The festival's oldest highlight is the Conch Republic Red Ribbon Bed Race.

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Aspiring Conch Republic citizens can celebrate the offbeat "nation's" birthday now through May 1 with activities ranging from a drag race for female impersonators to an exuberant sea battle featuring tall ships.

Showcasing the republic's eccentric spirit, the 34th annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration commemorates the Florida Keys' symbolic secession from the United States following the establishment of a 1982 U.S. Border Patrol blockade that virtually stopped traffic on the only road connecting the Keys and mainland Florida.

In protest, local officials proclaimed the island chain the independent Conch Republic. They then declared "war" on the United States, carried it out by pelting a U.S. Naval officer with stale Cuban bread, immediately surrendered and requested $1 billion in foreign aid.

Today patriots throughout the Keys fly the royal blue flag of the republic, whose motto is "We Seceded Where Others Failed," and celebrate the secession's anniversary each year with 10 days of irreverent events.

Scheduled events include a Conch Republic military muster, pirates' ball and pig roast, waterfront parties, a sailing race that recalls the Keys' historic shipwreck salvage tradition and the Great Battle for the Conch Republic. During the latter, sea dogs and wenches on tall ships and other vessels combat "evil federal forces" in an on-the-water skirmish that the republic always wins.

The festival's oldest highlight is the Conch Republic Red Ribbon Bed Race set for Saturday, April 30. The charity race, featuring teams propelling decorated beds along Duval Street, is billed as "the most fun you can have in bed with your clothes on."

Event information: facebook.com/The-Conch-Republic-380342204001/

Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY

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Posted On: April 25, 2016

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