The Conch Republic (also known as Key West and the Florida Keys) like many nations was born from trouble. The trouble started back in the dark days of March 1982, when the U.S. Federal Government placed a Border Patrol Roadblock at the Last Chance Saloon in Florida City. A seventeen mile traffic jam immediately ensued as the Border Patrol stopped every car leaving or entering the Keys, supposedly searching for illegal drugs and aliens who might be hiding under the front seats, in glove compartments, and in trunks. A Federal Miami court refused to enjoin the US Federal Government’s Border Patrol from treating the Keys like a foreign country. When the Key West delegation left the courthouse On April 23rd, Mayor Wardlow announced “We are going to go home and secede” and thus the Conch Republic was born. The Conch Republic flag was raised over city hall and the Schooner Western Union, under command of Captain John Kraus, went forth into the harbor and attacked the US Coast Guard Cutter DILIGENCE with water balloons, Conch fritters and stale Cuban bread. The DILIGENCE fought back with fire hoses and thus commenced the Great Battle of the Conch Republic. Prime Minister Wardlow surrendered and demanded foreign aid from the United States (which we are still waiting for!) The road block was quietly removed and the glorious Conch Republic was born. This event is celebrated each year with among other things a sea battle between the US Coast Guard and the Conch Republic Navy and Air Force. The sea battle is fought with water cannons while the Air Force bombs the Coast Guard ships with toilet paper, as seen here. For the past 40 years the Coast Guard admits defeat and shamefully sails back to their base. The city of course then has a parade.
One year I had the admittedly very difficult task of being both an arial photographer and a toilet paper bombardier. We returned to the airport as glorious battle hardened winners.