FOSSILICIOUS|Aurora Fossil Festival draws thousands to enjoy bountiful festivities

Published 10:11 pm Sunday, May 24, 2009

Features Editor

Fossils and veterans are sharing the spotlight this weekend during the 16th annual Aurora Fossil Festival, which began Friday evening and concludes today.
The town’s celebration is the result of hard work from festival-committee volunteers, said Mayor Winnifred Douglas.
“The festival is the event of the year,” Douglas said as she prepared to take her place in Saturday morning’s parade lineup. “It means so much to have thousands of people visit in one day to celebrate the fossils.”
This year’s schedule included a street dance, craft sales, fossil exhibits and digs. There are also lectures, carnival rides, musical entertainment and a special salute to local veterans.
“The Chamber of Commerce is responsible for this,” Douglas said. “‘Thank you’ just seems insignificant for what the members of the committee do. There are hundreds and hundreds of hours that go into this every year.”
Joining Douglas in the Fossil Festival parade through the downtown area were representatives of veterans groups, local businesses and organizations, fire and rescue departments, law-enforcement agencies and civic groups. Music was provided by the United States Marine Corps Band from Cherry Point and the Southside High School marching band.
Adding to the festivities were several Shriners groups, including the ‘gators and clowns.
The Aurora Fossil Museum was doing a booming business immediately following the parade. Manning the door was volunteer Mary Ellen DeHart of Newport News, Va.
“This is my first year helping with the festival,” said DeHart, a member of the Friends of the Museum organization. “We’ve had over 800 people coming in before noon, and we’re expecting about 1,800 during the day.”
Heat and humidity didn’t daunt fossil fans determined to “unearth” their own treasures Saturday afternoon. About 50 piles of reject material from the mines at PCS Phosphate were placed around town, according to festival chairman Curtis Ormond.
Dozens of folks — some working elbow to elbow — carefully sifted through the material, hoping to score sharks’ teeth and other fossils.
PCS Phosphate also hosted tours of its mines throughout the day, and an exhibit traced the history of the company and shared information about its operation.
Meanwhile, a car show, petting zoo, dunking booth and auction kept visitors of all ages entertained.
Today, a nondenominational worship service and gospel-music concert is planned for 11 a.m. in the parking lot of the Fossil Museum. A barbecue dinner fundraiser begins around noon, with plates selling for $6 each.
The festivities are sponsored by the Aurora/Richland Township Chamber of Commerce.