It’s time to celebrate Conch Republic independence!

Julie McEnroe of the Conch Republic Independence Celebration joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about the celebration.

The 42nd anniversary is in just a few days.

McEnroe said, “We’ve got 10 days of fun filled activities for all ages.”

The Conch Republic independence is the reason for the celebration that happened back in 1982.

McEnroe said, “Key West has always been a smuggler’s haven from like 1600s going on and it’s just varying product that would come in and out. In the 80s, there was a lot of product that was driving up the Keys into the mainland, and the federal government decided that it would be appropriate to put a federal roadblock, cutting off the Keys at Florida City. We were able to come back and forth, but we had to go through a checkpoint and there was lines of cars coming up. It happened at a time where Key West economy had done a radical shift. Two years before that, the Navy had sent 25,000 people out of the community. So we had a population of 50,000 that dropped the 25,000, followed by the Mariel Boatlift, which tourism wasn’t a big thing at that point. So when the roadblock came, the islanders were really stuck as far as the economy was going. So they immediately wrote a letter to the governor at the time who said, sorry, it’s a federal roadblock, we aren’t able to do anything about it. So their next plan was to write a letter to President Reagan, which never had any response. A group had gotten together and we’re trying to figure out how are they going to get this roadblock taken down was essentially, the essence of it. They went to Miami. They were in court and when they came out of the courthouse, there were a plethora of different radio stations, TV stations, everybody, all of a sudden it became a national news item. Once it became national, it didn’t take long for the federal government to realize that maybe putting up a federal roadblock within the United States wasn’t the most appropriate action, and it was taken away but it facilitated a whole new concept with the Conch Republic and Key West and they had a ceremony at Mallory Square on April 23, which was a day that they flew back from the courthouse after that and 42 years later, we’re still celebrating a lot of our events were from the first year after the succession. Throughout the years, we’ve added new events, expanded to include all different types of activities for kids, for adults, for partying, and it just became a national holiday in the Conch Republic.”

There were some tense times before independence.

McEnroe said, “We actually have a film crew that’s coming to town this weekend that’s doing a documentary on micro nations. So they’re going to come and see how we handle hours and what we do. It starts tomorrow, our first event is actually a cleanup that we’re working with the Key West ploggers and the plogging of the Florida Keys and the green ops and the Keep Key West Beautiful. We’re going to do a beach cleanup tomorrow morning. Then at five o’clock, we have our official opening ceremony and raising of the colors at Mallory Square, which is open to the public. That’s from 5 until 6. Schooner Warf Bar is doing their annual kickoff party and conch shell blowing contest. That’s our first day of activities. Then Saturday, we have a pretty full day. The Conch Ball is happening in the afternoon. Ocean Fest is happening at the Truman Waterfront, which is their 14th year. They’re not technically one of the original events of the festival. But what we try and do is include as many community activities that are happening during that time and help promote, so that’s another fun activity. If you live on Stock Island and you want to help clean up the community, on Saturday, you can meet at Bernstein Park in the morning, and they’re going to be doing a cleanup from eight until noon. Then Saturday afterwards, we have pirate sails, too. We have a family pirate sail in the afternoon and a more adult oriented pirate sail in the evening. Then Sunday we have the crafts fair that’s going to be on Duvall Street. That runs from Duvall and Green to Eaton Street and that’s free to the public, lots of unique treasures from local artists that are participants in the Mallory Square celebration and it’s hosted by Mallory Square artists and performers. Tuesday’s our big birthday party for the Conch Republic as she turns 42. We’re going to have quite a party at the Truman Waterfront.”

You can still get tickets for the celebration. The reserve ceremony and muster tickets are available for $20.

McEnroe said, “The tickets include seating for the ceremony and the muster. We have live entertainment with a royal minstrel of the Conch Republic. Danny Hoy is going to be performing and then Rich McKay and his group, the Sundogs are going to close out the evening. So we have live music from five until eight with the exception of our ceremony that’s going to be from 5:30 to 6:30. It’s open to the public. If you want to reserve a seat, please go online and purchase your ticket and come and play with us.”

The Conch Republic certainly lives on and is alive and well.

McEnroe said, “We try and make it as fun as possible. I think that Key West and the Conch Republic, one of the most magic things is everybody gets to be their five year old. We’re very, very blessed. The festival takes a lot of work to put on, and it takes the community to help us. We’re very, very fortunate that we have a strong support system. It allows us to be able to produce the events and I would say 99% of our events are free. We have the ticket events, where you can come for free, or if you wanted to have an upgrade, you can purchase a seat like I mentioned for the birthday party. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Passports to the Conch Republic are available, too.

McEnroe said, “We’re going to have a welcome center that set up at the seaport at Thomson Plaza, on the corner of Elizabeth and Green. That’s going to be open every day from two to nine. People can stop by and pick up an official program guide. They’re free. We also have a pocket guide if they don’t want the program. We have passports for sale, flags, Conch Republic flags, anything Conch Republic will be at that store. So please stop by, pick up some swag, find out all the events that you want to play at. We’ll also have at various events, pop up merchandise that’ll be at various events as well. So there’s a lot of opportunities to get all decked out in Conch Republic colors.”

There is also a boat parade.

McEnroe said, “That is prior to the great battle on Friday the 26th. The parade itself is open to anybody. So if you have a pleasure boat that you want to participate in, or a charter boat, please look online, we’ve got an application for the naval boat parade. That starts off the battle, we have a parade that starts at seven and then usually every year the Coast Guard decides to come in and attack us while we’re in the middle of our parade. We have rumors that it might be happening again this year. So don’t be surprised after the parade if we have a big battle fighting the Coast Guard.”

Will the CIA (Cuties in Action) be there as well?

McEnroe said, “The CIA is a strong backbone of the concrete public military. They’re actually the group that is hosting the military muster. We’re going to be working with them. We’ll have at Mallory Square the night of the battle, we will have a setup that’s at the T dock and that’s where Gen. Scarlett who is our new Supreme Commander, Admiral Finbar decided that at 82 he was going to step aside. He’s not stepping down, he’s stepping aside for the new generation. So anybody that wants to watch the most spectacular event at sea, please come to Mallory Square on Friday night. Festivities start at 6:30. The parade is at 7.”

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