Monday, May 31, 2010

Fossil Festival

Yay for Memorial Day Weekend! For all the normal reasons, of course,

but also because that's when Aurora, North Carolina throws its annual Fossil Festival! My friend P and I go every year.

This year was quite a bit smaller than last year's, and several vendors that I was looking forward to seeing weren't there. Also, it wasn't quite as well organized - no one was keeping track of the parking and we ended up trapped when people parked behind us, making three rows. But we still had a very nice time.

Our first success (and biggest of the day) was talking to one of the regular vendors regarding some really nifty rocks.

It's basically layers of coal with fossil ferns and other plants smashed in between. P and I were equally enamored of them, and asked the price. He kept giving us lower and lower prices, until we asked how much for all seven pieces. We got all seven (and the box to carry them in) for $40. Yay! The vendor, T, told us a secret - he's always more willing to deal on pieces that are heavier. Nothing like hauling rocks around to make one appreciate a bargain. (Next year, I'm moving in on his fossilized wood!) She had a favorite, which was REALLY cool so she took that one and I got the odd piece. We hauled our loot back to the car and moved along.

[When we got to my house later, and divided the seven between the two of us, I was reminded that several people have compared the two of us to those little gophers in the Warner Brothers cartoons - "No, no, I insist - you go first." "Oh I couldn't! Well, if you insist." We make me laugh.]

For the festival, Aurora closes its main street so it's like a festival/street fair kind of event. We wandered at will, and found other treasures, like fossilized sand dollars.

Then, nirvana! An air conditioned building, and the best of the shiny rock vendors. I went just a bit nuts this year. So shiny!

Fluorite. These pictures do not do justice. This piece looks like a miniature geometric city of the future. So very cool...

The tag called this calcopyrite. I'd never heard of it before, but it's a field of pale grey crystals, with indigo/purple/violet/navy crystals scattered randomly. Also much cooler in person.

Then I saw this. Oh my. The lady didn't take credit cards, so I basically jogged a mile to the nearest ATM and back. This is a softball sized piece of celestite. The crystals are palest grey to clear with lots of inclusions in them and it doesn't matter how you turn it - the inclusions cause every crystal to have rainbows trapped inside. Absolutely stunning.

We scrambled to get our shopping done since the auction starts at 3:00 and most of the vendors pack up before then. This year, we skipped the auction - it's all vendors and museum representatives and while the prices are very reasonable for what you are getting, a strict hobbyist like myself doesn't stand much of a chance. Then we tried for food. OMG. I just wanted french fries. That's it. We stood in line for well over an hour just to be told that the idiot ran out of potatoes. How the hell do you RUN OUT OF POTATOES at a booth selling french fries?!?!? And then, don't even update the damn sign so people standing in line KNOW to go somewhere else? Oooh, I was not happy!

Instead of eating french fries (growl), she got a hot dog and we moved to one of the mounds of dirt. The fossil museum exists because of the phosphate mine. After 9/11, the phosphate mine is not open to the public, but they take basically their leavings and pile the dirt up in spaces marked out by the museum and then you can dig around for free and keep anything you find.

I plunked myself down and dug in. P went wandering off and found another food booth and got me french fries. She's a very good friend. After food, life was much better and we rooted happily (like a pair of gophers...). P has the ability to spot sharks teeth. It's just one of those things. She'll walk around, looking down, and spot several of them. I am a bit more hands on. And by that, I sit in the dirt and dig. And shift. And dig some more. I enjoy it. Of course, the scale of our hunt is slightly different as well.

The penny is shown for scale. The visible tooth is one that P found. The others are the "micro teeth" that I find so attractive. I'm so quite fond of the teeny tiny fossil shells.

We hunted about for a couple of hours and then headed for home. It was nearly 100 degrees, and high humidity and we were outside for several hours, so we took a pass on the winery this year. We both just wanted to get home, shower and find an icy beverage. Here's what I (and P) found in the dirt this year.

And this is an old gas pump that just struck my fancy. We have one at home, and I just like them.

The big sand dollar and the orangey-ist of the fern rocks will be going to my mom on my next trip home. Thanks to this festival, we're both growing quite a collection of fossils and shiny rocks.

At the end of the day, I was sunburned, windburned, hot, sweaty, broke and quite happy. It was a very good day! Next year, you should come too!

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