The Aurora Fossil Festival:
A Big Time Event for Eastern NC
As the festival drew to a close Saturday night, the final exhibitor packed their fossils from their displays at the Community Center, and I was putting the final touches on cleaning the floor where thousands of visitors had come to see the display of fossils. The gavel had fallen at the auction for the final time and the raffle tooth had been drawn. As I turned out the lights and walked up the quiet, dark main street of Aurora, fireworks lit up the sky to my left. A rainbow of colors, sound, and glitter punctuated the night sky in the big field. It was such a fitting conclusion to a spectacular event. The Aurora Fossil Museum, the town of Aurora, and the Chamber of Commerce have spent weeks preparing for the event that draws tens and tens of thousands of spectators to the town where megalodon lives. Some of us, volunteers from the Special Friends of the AFM, arrived at the beginning of the week and stayed through Sunday. During that period, the town and the museum reached closer and closer toward the festival goals. Cynthia worked with numerous individuals from the town and PCS on safety issues around the museum. By the end of the week the streets were washed, the curbing painted blue for handicapped parking, and yellow for no parking areas. Crosswalks were established and painted from the pit to both the Learning Center and the AFM.
One of the concrete block walls that protect the pit behind the dragline bucket in Bonner Park had fallen down due either to careless machine operators, or age, or both, and posed a hazard to adults and children that collected there. The entire wall was repaired by three Friends members; Lee, Al, and George, all claiming to have degrees in anything but brick masonry. The two shark teeth information ID boards at both of the Main street pits were rejuvenated with new Plexiglas, washed, and one was moved to a more accessible location. Don and Joel made short work out of that task.
The three speakers were sensational this year and their presentations gave us new insight into the topics covered. The presentations by Victor Perez, Alex Hastings, and Donald Morgan were well attended by the festival public as well as Friends members and their families. A special thank you goes out to our keynote speaker, Dr. Bruce MacFadden, whose presentation on Belgrade fossils raised so much interest that he fielded questions for at least thirty minutes after his talk.
Chuck and a number of members spent numerous hours working on the SMR Project. By the end of the week 15-20 gallons of SMR material had been washed, screened twice from quarter inch to window screen size to separate and clean the shells from macro to micro fossil hash. Almost 2000 fossil shell species have come out of SMR and many varieties of shell material were exposed and identified during the 3-day period. There is still more to do and more to wash, but we have made a start on this project.
The auction was a rousing success and preliminary calculations certainly look strong. It is worth noting that there were several moments that were worthy of applause. A rare South Dakota skull, Hyaenodon, reached $1250 with a number of bidders upping the ante. The reserve was announced to be $1800. There was a long suspenseful pause as Merrill Millie contemplated. The crowd cheered with applause when he raised his own bid to meet the reserve. There was also that moment when Dr. Bean raised the bid to outlast all the other bidders on the black opal, diamond, and palladium jewelry. He walked up to the front, took the piece, and then gave it to a child in the audience. Finally, there was the beautiful piece of Roman Glass (circa 100-300 AD) that excited bidders in a heated bidding war that seemed it would never stop. When it finally ended, there were wild cheers and clapping for the bidders and the winner. Thank you all for supporting the auction, as well as contributing items to the auction itself. I think records might have been set.
I also want to thank all the volunteers that came to Aurora to give of themselves to the museum and the festival. This dedicated service makes the Special Friends of the AFM the organization that it is. We are fortunate to be able to support the Aurora Fossil Museum and the staff that keeps it running. Cynthia, Nellie, George, Tyler, Judy, and the other staff members do so much to create an educational experience for everyone that comes to the museum. The extras that were done for the volunteers this year did not go unnoticed, and served to let us know that we were appreciated for our service. Thank you, Cynthia and AFM staff for an enjoyable time.
Our annual meeting was a great success and the Board of Directors are pleased to let you know that a new era of membership cooperation has opened up with the museum and the museum Board of Directors to work together building our membership. Without PCS collecting, membership in the Friends is directly tied to the AFM and their front door to lead to the Friends organization. We will set up direct membership payment to the Friends through the museum gift shop, and the museum staff will work to entice membership in the Friends with the public that comes to the museum. Of course, this also serves to financially benefit the museum, as well as offer the potential for increased donations of fossils and donation of time to the museum. As we grow our membership, both the Friends and the Aurora Fossil Museum benefit. We welcome this closer tie to the museum.
Lee Cone – President of the SFAFM