It has been said that shell collecting is the second most popular collecting hobby, after postage stamps. Those who journey to the sea shore, for an hour or a week, find it hard to resist reaching down and picking up a shell or two to serve as a reminder of the joy they felt while strolling along the water's edge. And then there are those who go out of their way, unable to help themselves, to find that one particular shell.
The Space Coast has 72 miles of coastline and the shells most often found on it's beaches are common varieties. The Astronaut Trail Shell Club, a group of local enthusiasts, hosts a Seashell Festival every year, that allows attendees the opportunity to learn about and view shells that are not found locally. That show will be held Jan. 10-12, 2014, at Melbourne Auditorium. Scientific exhibits, which include rare and unusual shells, will more than satisfy those with a thirst for shell knowledge. Dealers will have unique collectible shells for the more serious collector. And if finding some interesting pieces to lend a tropical flair for the home interests guests, then they will delight in the multitude of shells, driftwood, and sea glass available for purchase.
Art and craft vendors will also be represented. The show will be a good place to get ideas for anyone wanting to create something with their beach finds, and it is also an opportunity to get information on becoming an exhibitor sometime in the future. The show will be held at Melbourne Auditorium, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cost per person will be $4 for adults, children 12 and under are free.
Astronaut Trail Shell Club
Founded in 1966, the Astronaut Trail Shell Club provides a place for those who have a special interest in seashells, whether that interest is casual, professional, or artistic. The club meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month, 7:30 p.m., at the Satellite Beach Community Center, 565 Cassia Boulevard, in Satellite Beach. The club web page says their " Activities include amateur and professional presentations on shells, collecting field trips for marine-land-freshwater-fossil shells and information exchange related to molluscs. "
Membership costs $12.50 per year for individual or $15.00 per year for a family. Newsletters are published and exchanged with other shell clubs and museums. Each year, the club awards educational grants for malacological research. Three members offer email addresses for those wishing to know more about the club, show or grants:
Conchologists of America
The Astronaut Trail Shell Club is a participating member of the Conchologists of America Club. The COA Club seeks to help shell clubs around the world communicate with each other.
Those looking for a shell club to join can find one on the COA web site. There are currently 37 registered shell clubs around the world:
26 in North America
1 in South America (Brazil)
6 in Europe
1 in South Africa
2 in Asia (China and Guam)
1 in New Zealand
Florida shell shows
If getting to the festival in Melbourne isn't possible, there are more opportunities coming up:
- Jan 18-19: Pompano Beach - Emma Lou Olsen Civic Center, 1801 Northeast 6th St, Pompano Beach. Web page available.
- Feb. 14-16: Sarasota - Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Sarasota, FL. Web page available.
- Feb. 22-23, 2014: St Petersburg - Seminole Recreation Center, 9100 113th St. N., Seminole, FL
- Mar. 6 - 8, 2014 - 77th Sanibel Shell Festival, Sanibel Community Center, 2173 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel Island, FL
- Mar. 13-15: Marco Island - United Church of Marco Island, 320 North Barfield, Marco Island
Shell collectors will be the first to say that pristine sandy beaches aren't always the most ideal locations to find unusual shells. On the Space Coast, there can be few or even no shells for months at a time. In contrast, the islands off Florida's west coast have piles of shells that sometimes have to be bulldozed off the island's two lane roads. Take time to visit the Seashell Festival and learn where to go, when to go, and what you'll find if you'd like to pick up some of those beautiful gifts from the sea.