Parades, bed races, parties and a wacky “drag race” commemorate the founding of the Conch Republic on April 23, 1982, in response to a U.S. Border Patrol roadblock that halted traffic in and out of the Florida Keys.
Festival highlights include the "World's Longest Parade," which begins at the Atlantic Ocean and proceeds to the Gulf of Mexico, and features impromptu floats, inline skating groups, local and visiting firefighters, musicians and colorfully painted "conch cruiser" cars and bicycles. Spectators are encouraged to follow the procession as it winds its way from it's beginning on Duval St. to the endpoint and a parade party at the Schooner Wharf Bar.
The action moves from land to the waters of Key West Harbor. The Conch Republic Naval Parade and Great Battle for the Conch Republic is sponsored by the republic's flagship schooner Wolf. The good-spirited battle pits the Conch Republic Navy against the federal forces, with weapons ranging from water cannons to sponges to flying Cuban bread and vegetables. Spectators are invited to view the debacle from Bloody Battle Parties at the Sunset Pier at Ocean Key Resort, and the sunset deck at the Westin Resort & Marina.
Following the battle, a victory party is scheduled at the Schooner Wharf Bar to commemorate the Conch Republic Navy's triumph over the evil forces of the "United States Border Patrol." Partygoers will definitely have something to celebrate, since the Republic's naval forces never lose.
The festival's oldest and most famous event is the annual Conch Republic Red Ribbon Bed Race. Colorfully decorated and wheeled beds are propelled down Duval Street by runners during this daytime slumber party gone wild. "Bedlam" is virtually guaranteed. The race raises money for Key West's AIDS Help, Inc.
Other activities scheduled for the Conch Republic Independence Celebration are a fiddlers' contest at the Green Parrot Bar; the election of the Conch Republic royal family; a pedicab race benefiting the Conch Republic Foster Children's Fund; a "hog wild" party at the Hog's Breath Saloon; a sailing race to the reef that salutes Key West's early salvage industry; and a crafts show and food fest presented by Key West's Cultural Preservation Society.