When March first rolls around it’s a sure bet that the Marco Island Shell Club’s annual shell spectacular can’t be far behind. This year, Shell Show 2009 opened Thursday for its traditional show and sale open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Saturday, at its customary venue in the Marco Presbyterian Church, 875 West Elkcam Circle.
Saundra Martell, current Shell Club president through 2010 and five year Island resident, said she first got involved to do some crafting: “This is our 29th show, and I’m looking forward to next year – our 30th -- working with a great team of people and planning even more fabulous exhibits!” Martell said eagerly, adding that currently, she’s also focused on the club’s other mission.
The Marco Island Shell Club has a 20 year history of awarding scholarships to deserving scholars. This year we’re working with Florida Gulf Coast University because they offer programs in marine biology as well as marine environmental studies. So we are fitting together scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students who are studying or doing research in these fields,” Martell said enthusiastically, “It’s going to be great a program – two undergraduate research scholarship and one graduate scholarship.”
The Club’s annual event helps in many ways noted Shirley Prushko, past president of the Marco Island Shell Club, who is now in charge of the workshop where many members meet weekly to make items that will be sold at shows and raise money for scholarships.
“Our sales theme this year is “Imagination” and we made items for the seven separate areas in the sales display section.” Prushko explained:
“Special Occasions featured small objects suitable for party favors; Home Décor items like wreaths and shell-framed mirrors; High Fashion area included jewelry; Christmas Delight had tree ornaments as well as small decorated trees; Characters & Critters – yep! Cowboys, golfers and softball players along with turtles and snails; Nautical Treasures depicted pelicans on perches and shellflowers on coral; Rainbow Garden showcased shell flowers crafted from shell and other marine life.
“This year, the show focuses on the individuals who make it a team effort as well as the crafters of the Marco Island Shell Club workshop,” Prushko said, naming Bill Schwartz as a member who was very active in shell crafters and contributed a lot of time and effort to create many of the unique critters sold at the show.
“We all have our areas of expertise,” Bill Schwartz said deprecatingly, explaining that he was a retired toolmaker and always like working with his hands. “Now, my wife is into creating floral designs, and last year before the Naples shell club disbanded, Edna was in charge of the Naples workshop in addition to being very active and contributing to the Marco Island club.”
In addition, Prushko added, “Edna and Bill were recognized recently for their dedication, effort and contributions to the Marco Island Shell Club and we made them lifetime honorary members.”
“You know, we added twelve or more new members this past year, and I credit the exposure we get from the show and the publicity in the newspapers for some of that, because that’s how people find out about us.” Prushko stated, explaining that new arrivals were more interested in what’s going on because they hadn’t filled their calendars and were looking to get involved.
Amy Tripp, scientific chairperson for Shell Show 2009, noted that both the Scientific Division and Artistic Division had definite rules and guidelines for size and categories that were similar for the classes: Hobbyist, novice, student and junior. There were more than a hundred sub categories and that many entries submitted by avid, dedicated shellers at the show.
“There were two judges each for both divisions in our juried show, said Tripp. “In the Artistic Division, Phyllis Gray, a member of the Central Florida Shell Club from Orlando and Betty Lipe, from Seminole, an educational specialist specializing in marine environmental studies. Her husband, Robert Lipe, who is knowledgeable in Caribbean and Florida seashells, was one the Scientific Division judges along with Gary Schmelz, Ph.D., of Naples, who is currently a research associate at University of Florida.
“There’s no money involved here – no money prizes – the people who exhibit have to expend money for supplies. The display boxes are expensive and then there’s the time spent in research so the exhibits and the nomenclature are scientifically correct. The bottom line?” Tripp asked rhetorically, “It’s about satisfaction and gaining knowledge about sea life!”