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Key West Residents Celebrate 30 Year "Secession" Of Conch Republic

Attendees wave flags and hold signs during a ceremony Monday, April 23, 2012, in Key West, Fla., to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Conch Republic. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)

KEY WEST (CBS4) - A seven-foot-round Key lime pie and a re-enactment of the Florida Keys' "secession" from the United States marked the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Conch Republic late Monday afternoon in Key West.

The formation of the Conch Republic occurred after the April 23, 1982, "secession" motivated by a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint set up unexpectedly at the top of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, the road to mainland Florida. Federal agents were ostensibly searching cars for drugs and illegal immigrants. The roadblock created a massive traffic jam of cars exiting the Keys, angering residents and visitors alike.

"I was indignant that they could to this to us, that they could put up a border on our highway and search people going out," said Ed Swift, one of the republic's "founding fathers."

Figuring the Keys were being treated as a foreign country, local officials protested by staging the secession and raising the royal blue flag of the Conch Republic.

Swift and other founders took part in Monday's re-enactment, proclaiming the republic, declaring war on the United States, and "battling" by bopping a real U.S. Naval officer with stale Cuban bread. As per the original secession, they then surrendered and requested $1 billion in foreign aid.

"Thirty years ago when Mayor Dennis Wardlow did that, I'm amazed he had the nerve," admitted current Key West Mayor Craig Cates.

Following the re-enactment, Cates used a blowtorch to brown the seven-foot-round pie's traditional meringue topping. A gargantuan version of the Florida Keys' signature dessert, the pie was made up of juice from 1,080 Key limes, 360 eggs, 90 cans of sweetened condensed milk and 20 pounds of pie dough. Attendees quickly gobbled up several hundred slices.

The Conch Republic Independence Celebration continues through Sunday, April 29. Other planned highlights include a lighthearted sea battle showcasing the maritime skills of the Conch Republic Military, and an open-air bed race billed as "the most fun you can have in bed with your clothes on."

Source: Florida Keys News Bureau

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