Anniversary of Conch Republic in Florida Keys brings parties

The Key West Airport, Wikimedia Commons photo credit: Deror avi

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) – The 35th anniversary celebration of the Florida Keys’ “secession” from the United States, staged as a reaction to an unannounced U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint at the top of the Keys Overseas Highway, begins Friday.

The Conch Republic was born April 23, 1982, after the checkpoint caused lengthy traffic backups for departing Keys visitors and residents. Agents stopped vehicles ostensibly searching for drugs and illegal aliens.

Angered the Keys were being treated as a foreign nation, local officials staged the “secession,” formed the republic, declared “war” on the U.S., promptly surrendered and requested millions in foreign aid.

The checkpoint faded away, but the “secession” generated global attention.

The Conch Republic Independence Celebration continues through April 30 with events including a secession re-enactment, a drag race featuring female impersonators and a mock sea battle.

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