The Shell Show Did Go On!

sanibel shell show art

In June 2020, the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club decided their 84th in-person, judged show was impossible due to COVID restrictions. Having watched The Virtual Beachcombing Festival, Club member Clair Beckmann encouraged the club to fulfill its mission by having an online festival to educate, entertain, and raise sponsor dollars to fund educational and research grants. Clair agreed to chair the show for 2021 and the work began with Sanibel Shell Club members vowing, “The Shell Show must go on!

Club webmaster Connie Jump stepped forward to offer video development, editing, technical support, and graphic design expertise, and other club members joined the team. After nine months of work, the 2021 Virtual Sanibel Shell Festival premiered six hours of all-original videos, with something for everyone.

The Show Committee’s first task was brainstorming video ideas. The first video the team wanted was a virtual fossil trip by Roger Portell, a club grantee from the University of Florida. Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Florida Gulf Coast University, and University of South Florida promised plenty of live mollusk footage and videos about grant projects. Club members produced, directed, and edited most of the videos.

seashell videos

The club’s Sanibel Beach by Beach video was enhanced by professional photographer Nick Adams’ aerial drone footage of Sanibel beaches, which takes viewers to five public beaches. Information including parking and which shells may be found on a particular beach, as well as how the beach access appears on the ground and from the air, are included. The video will be very helpful in the future for those visiting Sanibel to beachcomb. Joyce Matthys, who co-chairs the in-person Shell Show, stepped up and provided stunning videos about live mollusks in their shells, how to clean shells, a shelling challenge on the beach, and live critters on Sanibel beaches.

vintage sanibel shell festival photo

The 2021 Virtual Sanibel Shell Show on the Sanibel Shell Club’s YouTube channel garnered over 5,500 views during the premiere weekend in March. Viewers from 27 states plus Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and Canada actively chatted and commented hundreds of times as the show aired. One of the comments during the show was, “This was so much fun. I never moved out of my chair during the show. Not once. It was SO GOOD.” Another viewer said, “Even though there is snow outside, I am putting on shorts and a tank top and flip flops to get the real feel of the 2021 Virtual Shell Show.” And, one person wrote, “I was almost in tears that it was ending, never boring, kept wanting more…”

A highlight of the show was voting on the best seashell photos of 2021.

Viewers enjoyed learning about the empty shells that are home to beautiful, often brightly colored, live creatures with eyes, feet that propel them, and various appetites for mating and eating. They learned how to determine the age of a horse conch in one of the grantee videos from the University of South Florida. Watching mollusk predators and prey, mollusks laying eggs, and mollusks moving around the beach in search of food inspired more comments. “I had no idea that the shells we collect had live animals inside them,” and “Who Knew?” Science facts interspersed between videos evoked a similar response. Wendy the Wentletrap was voiced by club member Diane Thomas’s granddaughter, Olivia.

MaryBeth Greenplate shared how she created a beach bungalow doll house with tiny fishing floats, art, and a beautiful miniature shell room. Rachel Fields filled a printer’s tray with beach finds, and the Sanibel Shell Crafters showed how to create a shell shadow box. Watching a professional artist create a sailor’s valentine from conception to finish was featured in the show. Suzanne Dietsch used sea life and tiny shells in her studio in Illinois while Andrea Schopf showed her two studios in Maryland and Pennsylvania and shared her creative work. One viewer wrote, “It was so much fun to see such intricate work up close. Truly amazing. Thank you for sharing.”

seashell art collections display ideas

Another popular video, 101 Ways to Display Shells, was compiled from photos and video provided by Sanibel Shell Club members. This was a well-received video, as everyone who beachcombs is looking for cute and unusual ways to display their finds. Olive shells in an oversized martini glass, junonias on coral, starfish around a door jamb, little shells within big shells, shells sorted by size, by color, or by species, plants in shells, shells in deviled egg dishes, and on and on and on. Several viewers asked specifically when this video would air because they did not want to miss it.

If you missed watching live, you can still view the show and the videos at the Club’s website.

The 85th Annual Shell Show was back in person March 3–5, 2022, at the Sanibel Community House. 

Learn about all that went into planning the first Sanibel Virtual Shell Show and see the winners of the Sanibel Shell Show Photo Contest.

Learn more about seashells

nature and history of seashells and collecting

Learn more about identifying shells, the history of seashell collecting, great shelling beaches, and the lives of the animals who make the shells we find on the beach. Articles ›

best beaches for beachcombers

Learn more about the best beaches and destinations for sea and beach glass, seashells, fossils, rocks, and more beach finds around the world. Articles ›

No live shelling: Be sure shells are empty and sand dollars, sea stars, and sea urchins are no longer alive before you bring them home.

All photos and information courtesy of the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club. The Sanibel Shell Club would like to thank the committee of Clair Beckmann (Chair), Mary Burton, Connie Jump, Joyce Matthys, Phyllis Sharp, Diane Thomas, and Joe Timko, with a special shout out to Connie Jump without whom the show would not have gone on. Huge gratitude to the sponsors, the videographers, the folks who allowed us to film them, and most of all…the viewers.

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine May/June 2021 issue.

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