Shelling & beach combing are like any other hobby or interest. There are different levels that one can pursue. There is the casual sheller that is oblivious to whether or not the tide is high or low, the moon full or new, or the pretty brown speckled shell they just picked up is a 1 in a 1,000 find.
The next level - the serious sheller has equipment - shell shovel, mesh bags, & aqua shoes. Names like tellin, donax, & murex just roll off the tongue. Mean low tides are celebrated with the enthusiasm of Mardi Gras as the parade of shellers head to the beach. I would liken it to a person who starts drinking wine. You like that nice little California Chardonnay but you sense there must be more. After attending a few wine tastings you discover the regions of Italy & France and all the little vineyards they don't sell in Publix. Then one day you read your first copy of the magazine Wine Spectator and you start to develop skills of nose & legs that have nothing to do with your own body.
Just like a wine connoisseur would go to a wine tasting - serious shell lovers gather together also in shell clubs. There are shell clubs all over the state of Florida. We have some of the finest right here in SWFL. Most shell clubs have monthly meetings that feature a speaker on a shelling subject or some other interesting shell-related topic. They go on cool field trips to places like Sanibel, Marco Island, local fossil pits, & faraway places too. They bring shellcrafters together. Shell clubs are also a great place to share your new shell specimens & to help with their identification. Shell clubs each have their own club shell.
|My local Englewood Shell Club has the Lightning Whelk|
|The Sarasota Shell Club has Beau's Murex|
|The Sarasota Shell Club members collected, cleaned, & bagged 1,500 little shell favors to give to each attendee.|
|The frame to the left lists every item on this wrack wreath|
|Somebody was very busy picking up coquinas|
|Oodles of miniature shell flower arrangements for sale. Most were only 5 or 6 dollars.|
|Love the flip flops|
|No shell show is complete without the Sailor's Valentine|
|President Ron Bopp of the Sarasota Shell Club|
|Twenty Beautiful Shells display by Ron Bopp|
|Ron bought these shells for $1 each at last year's show in a grab bag box|
I struck up a conversation with a very nice fella who was telling me all about the mission of the Sarasota Shell Club. Turns out he is the President. Ron Bopp moved to Sarasota from Oklahoma. He has a love for shells which brought him to the club. He had entered 3 exhibits in the show. His winning exhibit "What Can You Get For $20 Dollars" posed the question & answered with "a meal at Applebee's or a dvd of Sex in the City ?" ...no, 20 beautiful shells and an unequealed education. He had bought 20 shells at the previous year's shell show in a grab bag box for $1 each. He turned those shells into a display for this year's shell show. His other exhibit was fossil shells sawn in half with a bandsaw & their pictures tweaked on a photoshop computer program to look like x-rays.
|A shell lover with power tools & a photo shop program - unstoppable|
|Amazing displayof a personal collection of snails|
|A collection from the beaches of Longboat Key|
|These are all mini's. Each bottle holds tiny little perfect miniature shells|
|Guady asaphis from the Bahamas|
|The profits from the shell show are given to various marine research institutions & projects such as Mote Marine Laboratory, the Carefree Learner, and projects by New College & other students in the Sarasota area|
Great news.There are more shell shows coming to SWFL. The St Pete Shell Club is having their annual show Feb 26 & 27. The 74th Annual Sanibel-Captiva Shell Fair & Show will be held March 3-5 on the shelling mothership Sanibel Island. See ya there!