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Aurora Fossil Festival: A big hit for all ages

By By CHRISTINA HALE, Staff Writer
AURORA — Children and adults enjoyed getting their hands dirty Saturday at the Aurora Fossil Festival. Part of the festival’s appeal is that participants can search for their own fossils. Several mounds of dirt from the PCS Phosphate mine are brought in especially for the event.
Paul Sangeorzan of Michigan, a museum volunteer who was recently appointed president of the Friends of the Aurora Museum, has been coming to Aurora for six years. He says the PCS soil is the “most fossil-rich of anywhere.”
Sangeorzan kept coming back each year for the “hunts” offered at PCS. The mining company allows people into the facility to dig a few weekends each year, he said.
That same rules applied Saturday.
George Bischoff, a science teacher from Nash-Rocky Mount Early College High School, comes to the festival and brings buckets of the soil to his earth science classroom. His daughter, Sarah, 9, and Logan Pearce, 8, went to work on one of the dirt piles Saturday, using screens they had made to sift the dirt through. Logan found many different shark teeth and shells.
Marie McCoy and her husband, Tom, of Burlington come every year to the fossil festival, but for different reasons. “I go through the festival part and my husband digs. We love it,” Marie McCoy said. “The people are really nice and … friendly,” she said.
Festival goers were able to tour the PCS mines Saturday. Activities started Friday and continued throughout the day Saturday. Visitors enjoyed a parade, live entertainment, children’s rides, retail and food vendors and a car show. The Aurora Fossil Museum was open Saturday and held an auction to raise money.
Museum Director Andrea Stilley said the auction made $26,000 last year. The museum spent $11,000 on the collection.
Auctioneer Jay Goldberg said he never tries to predicts how much the collection will bring in each year. “As much as possible,” he said.
The museum raffles off a shark’s tooth every year. This year was a large Megalodon tooth. Benny Foreman, 10, of Jacksonville, N.C., bought 24 raffle tickets hoping to win. He said he loved digging for the smaller teeth, but really liked collecting the big ones.
Goldberg and Stilley were pleased with the turnout for the festival. Stilley said it was busy all day Saturday.
Goldberg said, “It’s a wonderful day. We’ve had a tremendous reception.”