Key West Rotary Club embraces the flavor of conch at Bayview Park on Saturday, March 1 with the fourth annual Conchfest, a celebration of Conch Heritage. Key Wester Anton Lopez connects the festival to his Bahamian roots.
“I am Bahamian and it is a delicacy over there,” said Lopez. “It is a part of me and my family tradition.”
He learned to cook the shellfish from his father who learned from his grandmother.
“My grandmother was a well known chef in town, Alberta Lopez, but everybody called her ‘Nana.’ She knew how to cook conch and was well known on the military base,” said Lopez.
Conch, tomatoes, dill, pepper and cucumbers are a few ingredients of his infamous conch salad.
Lopez owns a food vending service that travels up and down the Keys and throughout Florida enchanting customers with the Caribbean flavor he produces. On Saturday, he will join about 50 other vendors that set up at Bayview Park selling seafood, barbeque and crafts from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. The headliners are Howard Livingston and the MM 24 Band.
Rotary Club Program Chair Jessica Cranney said she thinks this Conchfest will be the best yet.
“The food is amazing and it is a great demonstration of community involvement,” said Cranney. “Key West soccer is going to be selling conch cozies and you may even see the Caribbean Queen Junkanoos stroll by.”
Funds raised by Rotary are for the Paul J. Scher Memorial Scholarship. It’s a $20,000 grant for a graduating KWHS senior that will make the difference whether a student can attend college or not. Major contributors are the Historic Tours of America ($5,000) and the Pier House Resort and Spa Remington Hotels ($2,000).
Fishbuster Retail fishery is a also sponsor and vendor and general manager Carlos Ruffino comes out to support the Conchs every year.
“We do it because we are big supporters of seafood and Key West High School. We are one of largest in the state,” said Ruffino. “Smoked fish dip, smoked fish, salmon, shrimp and ceviche will be served from our booth.”
Admission is free and food and beverages are reasonably priced. Rotary Club volunteers will be selling cocktails. For more information visit conchfest.com.