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THE SUPERBOWL OF SHELLING: The 86th Annual Sanibel Shell Show returns with international guests

Posted at 10:16 AM, Mar 09, 2024

IONA, Fla. — The Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort was buzzing with activity as it hosted the 86th Annual Sanibel Shell Show, an event that has become a cornerstone for shell enthusiasts across the country. After a cancellation last year due to Hurricane Ian, the show made a return, now with nearly double the space of its previous venue at the Sanibel Community House.

Sandy Powell, a participant at the event, shared the excitement of many, calling it the 'Superbowl of the shelling world.' Shells were the stars of the show, with thousands on display for the visitors.

The show, which started from modest beginnings over 86 years ago, has grown significantly.

Linda Arnold, the chairperson of the Sanibel Shell Show, reminisced about its origins, "They started years, years, years ago, with the Island Inn, people would just bring some of their great shells on the porch and compare their shells, and so it started there, probably almost 86 years ago, and has grown to this."

Today, the show features over three hundred exhibits, attracting thousands of visitors from across the United States and even overseas. It's a blend of artistic and scientific displays that can captivate shell enthusiasts for hours.

Among the international attendees was Hatsue Iimuro, a shell art instructor from Japan, who has been creating and teaching shell art for over two decades. "This is traditional art in the U.S., so I've introduced that traditional shell art to Japan," Iimuro said. She teaches the art of creating Sailors' Valentines, symmetrical designs made from shells and housed in octagonal boxes. Iimuro's love for this art form has inspired a community of 50 students in Japan.

One of Iimuro's large Sailor's Valentines, which had been donated to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, was damaged by Hurricane Ian. However, during her visit, she was able to make repairs to her donation, restoring a piece of Sanibel's charm and her connection to the island. "I love Sanibel," Iimuro said.

The show is open to the public for two days, Friday and Saturday, 9 AM to 4 PM, with an admission fee of $5.