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Retiree Accepts Proposal After Winning Conch Shell Contest

Mary Lou Smith, 70, and Rick Race, 73, were both competing on a stage in Key West
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 4, 2018 4:40 PM CST
Conch Shell Blowing Contest Turns Into Touching Proposal
Mary Lou Smith, right, reacts to a surprise marriage proposal from Rick Race after she competed in the Conch Shell Blowing Contest Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Key West, Fla.   (Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

(Newser) – A Florida retiree has won the women's division in Key West's annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest—and accepted a marriage proposal from a fellow competitor. Seventy-year-old Mary Lou Smith impressed the judges Saturday with long blasts on the fluted, pink-lined shell. And when 73-year-old Rick Race proposed on stage, she accepted by joining him in a joyous duet, per the AP. Other winners included Florida Keys resident Vinnie Marturano, who won the men's division after blowing three-toned blasts and a song fragment.

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Judges evaluated entrants from children to seniors on the quality, novelty, duration, and loudness of their playing. Conch shells have been used as signaling devices in the Florida Keys for centuries. Native-born islanders are called Conchs, and the Keys are nicknamed the Conch Republic. The contest was conceived by the Old Island Restoration Foundation. (Read more marriage proposal stories.)

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