Fossil Festival brings fun and learning to Aurora this weekend

Published 7:46 pm Thursday, May 23, 2019

AURORA — Millions of years ago, before the dawn of humanity, shallow seas covered the land that now makes up most of North Carolina. Left behind from that time, today one can find fossils from plants and animals that made their homes in that sea, and nowhere can these remains be found in greater abundance than Aurora.

This weekend, the town will welcome thousands of people for the 26th-annual Fossil Festival, and the pieces are falling into place to make the event bigger and better than ever.

“The biggest thing is just to have fun for the people in this area and show off Aurora, what we stand for and how hard we’ve worked for this year,” said Wayne Sawyer, the festival’s co-chairman.

Festivities kick off Friday with the festival’s opening ceremony at 6 p.m., during which the 2019 Fossil Master, Dr. George Oliver Jr., will make his first appearance. The fun continues into the evening with a DJ, vendors, live music and digging for fossils.

For runners, Saturday kicks off bright and early with the Fossil Festival 5K, followed by a special breakfast for veterans. The festival begins in full at 11 a.m. with the world-famous Fossil Festival parade. Rides and games will begin shortly thereafter, continuing into the evening.

“We’ve got two new things we’re going to try this year,” Sawyer said. “One of them is called a ‘shark tooth frenzy.’ We’re going to have a competition in one certain pile of fossils to see who can find the most teeth in a 30-minute period. We’re going to do that twice in Saturday afternoon.”

The second new event, a tug of war competition, will add to traditional offerings such as the annual tractor pull. Live music on the main stage will keep guests entertained throughout the day, with many local musicians making an appearance. Book club members will read to children, and three area artists will share information about their recent publications.

Supplementing the day’s activities, there will also be plenty to do at the Aurora Fossil Museum. A pair of paleontology lectures will offer visitors a chance to hear from experts on ancient sharks, rays and dinosaurs. The lectures at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. will bookend a special celebration of the Fossil Museum’s 41st birthday celebration at 11:45 a.m., and all of these events take place in the Museum Learning Center.

“The Festival is a good way to get people to Aurora,” Aurora Fossil Museum Director Cynthia Crane said. “People see the word ‘festival’ and come out for those festival activities, but this festival is unique as it has a large education component to it.”

At the Aurora Community Center, representatives from universities and museums from North Carolina and beyond will have fossil displays set up throughout the day, with experts on hand to answer questions from the public. An education tent beside the museum will likewise offer guests an opportunity to expand their paleontological knowledge.

At 3 p.m., the Friends of the Aurora Fossil Museum will hold a fossil auction at the learning center, with all funds raised going to support the museum. At 6 p.m., one lucky winner will walk away with a pristine megalodon tooth up for raffle at the museum.

“The main thing it does is it allows us to showcase what we’ve got down here,” Sawyer said. “We’re not very big by no means, but we’ve got a big heart, big country feelings down here, and we’ve got a sense of pride. That’s what we try to show off here.”