Key West Begins 40th Anniversary Celebration of Conch Republic's Birth

A waterfront ceremony commemorating the Florida Keys’ symbolic “secession” from the United States began a 10-day celebration that marks the 40th anniversary of the formation of the Conch (pronounced KONK) Republic.

The Republic was formed in 1982 in response to a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint that caused a traffic jam on the only road connecting the Florida Keys to the mainland. The checkpoint angered locals, and after pleas to federal officials were denied, a group led by Key West's then-mayor, Dennis Wardlow, staged a "secession" and announced the formation of the Conch Republic.

Today, the Conch Republic is recognized around the world as the Florida Keys' irreverent alter ego. The 40th anniversary celebration will include a flag raising and conch shell salute, a sea battle showcasing the maritime skills of the republic's "navy," a drag race for female impersonators, and an open-air bed race.

The Conch Republic is a unique and fun example of government protest. The Republic's secession was a lighthearted way to protest the Border Patrol's checkpoint, and the 40th anniversary celebration is a great way to commemorate the event.  The celebration continues through Sunday, April 24.  If you're in Key West during the celebration, be sure to check out some of the events!