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.