The City of Key West, Florida

The Southernmost City in th Continental United States

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Conch Republic Month

conch republic

The City Commission Chambers were full Tuesday as Key West’s original rebel crew joined together to receive a City proclamation for Conch Republic Month.

Mayor Emeritus Dennis Wardlow and the community leaders who, in 1982, defied a state roadblock by declaring independence and establishing the Conch Republic, were on hand to remember the heady days that followed.

Now an annual celebration of Key West’s feisty past, the Conch Republic is founded upon a very real issue. In March of 1982, the federal government placed a border patrol roadblock in Florida City. The resulting traffic backup – and the backlash on the city’s budding tourist industry – drove local leaders to challenge the roadblock in federal court. The City lost.

Mayor Emeritus Wardlow expressed a special thanks to the community leaders at Tuesday’s meeting who were involved in the effort 37 years ago including attorney David Paul Horan and Key West Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Virginia Panico.

The end result of the court hearing, said Mayor Emeritus Wardlow, “is that we lost. So we said, if they’re going to treat us as a foreign country, we’re going to be a foreign country.”

The next day, Key West seceded from the union.

After a mock battle, local leaders surrendered, then demanded foreign aid, which is still pending.

Local business owner Jim Gilleran serves as the Secretary of State for the Conch Republic. He noted that Conch Republic Days has become a major festival in the city.

“We have represented here tonight many branches of the Conch Republic military,” said Gilleran, “who practice frivolity and peace, but also do their share of volunteering in the community.”

The independence celebration known as Conch Republic Days runs from April 19th through the 29th.