Sanibel Shell Festival – Events on Sanibel

Credit: Sanibel Shell Club

The Sanibel Shell Festival turns 82 when the annual event opens on Thursday, March 9th. Located at the Sanibel Community house at 2173 Periwinkle Way, this event is one of Sanibel Islands biggest attractions and attracts thousands of visitors and guests each spring.

The three-day festival, also known as one of the longest running shell shows in the world will be open all weekend (March 7-9) and feature judged artistic and scientific displays, local vendors and organizations and more!

According to the Sanibel Shell Club:

The first Community Fair was held in 1928 on the porch of the Old Island Inn and was a miniature county fair with baked goods, “fancy work,” and homemade gifts offered for sale by the ladies of Sanibel to help the community. It was considered quite a success. As a matter of adding interest the ladies brought boxes of their pretty Sanibel shells to show the visitors. This had so much appeal that the next year when the Fair was held on the porch of Casa Ybel Hotel, more shell displays were added and people began to come across on the ferry from Fort Myers to see them. They also came to take home some of the toothsome fresh coconut pies and cakes that the island ladies baked for the sale. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were among the more distinguished visitors at this Fair. Pictures taken of them on the porch of Casa Ybel viewing the shells are still in existence.

By the next year, the Fair had grown in size and popularity to such proportions that the men of the community got together and decided to build the existing Community House to take care of this, by now, annual event. Francis Bailey remembers that at one of the early fairs they had produce and poultry shows because he recalls getting a ribbon for his Bantam chickens, although he isn’t sure whether it was first or second place award.

The judges for the 82nd Annual Sanibel Shell Show 2019 are as follows:

Scientific Division: David Green, Houston, Texas; Duane Kauffman, Sarasota, Florida & Goshen, Indiana.

Artistic Division: Marci Chamberlin, Palm Beach, Florida and Andover, Massachusetts Linda Koestel Green, Houston Texas. 

Parking is free and a $5 donation includes admission to the exhibit halls plus one free admission to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.