Florida retiree wins conch-blowing contest, gets engaged
June 23, 2018 | 78° | Check Traffic

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Florida retiree wins conch-blowing contest, gets engaged

  • COURTESY FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU

    Mary Lou Smith, right, reacts to a surprise marriage proposal from Rick Race after she competed in the Conch Shell Blowing Contest on March 3 in Key West, Fla. Both Smith and Race are from Panama City Beach, Fla. Judges evaluated contest entrants from children to seniors on the quality, novelty, duration and loudness of the sounds they produced.

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KEY WEST, Fla. >> A Florida retiree has won the women’s division in Key West’s annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest — and accepted a marriage proposal from a fellow competitor.

Seventy-year-old Mary Lou Smith impressed the judges Saturday with long blasts on the fluted, pink-lined shell. And when 73-year-old Rick Race proposed on stage, she accepted by joining him in a joyous duet.

Other winners included Florida Keys resident Vinnie Marturano, who won the men’s division after blowing three-toned blasts and a song fragment.

Judges evaluated entrants from children to seniors on the quality, novelty, duration and loudness of their playing.

Conch shells have been used as signaling devices in the Florida Keys for centuries. Native-born islanders are called Conchs, and the Keys are nicknamed the Conch Republic.

The contest was conceived by the Old Island Restoration Foundation.

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