On March 25, 2017, more than 800 people visited the Randell Research Center to enjoy a day of speakers, exhibits, and guided tours.

The RRC classroom hosted displays on finds from the Blueberry site in Highlands County (Nate Lawres), recent Pineland and Mound Key excavations (Karen Walker and Jeanne Gossman), ongoing research on Calusa fuelwoods and other wood uses (Jen Haney), and the environmental histories of Pine Island Sound and Estero Bay (Mike Savarese).The speakers tent featured talks by Torben Rick (archaeologist, Smithsonian Institution), the Florida Museum/RRC’s Bill Marquardt, artist/anthropologist Merald Clark, and Florida Public Archaeology Network Southwest Region’s archaeologist Rachael Kangas. Free samples of foods eaten by the Calusa – oysters, clams, mullet, and papaya – were enjoyed by many visitors. Local artists showed and sold their creations, replicators demonstrated Native American crafts such as stone tool making and weaving, and information booths were were staffed by representatives eager to share information about their museums, archaeological and historical societies, and conservation programs. Three Captiva Cruises boat tours of Pine Island Sound moderated by Denége Patterson, author of our new book A Tour of the Islands of Pine Island Sound, were much enjoyed.

The highlight of the day for many was a first look at the new Calusa Heritage Trail extension that leads to the Smith (burial) mound and Low Mound. Culminating a nearly year-long project to clear the new property of invasive vegetation, install fencing, and prepare walking paths, the first guided tours were given by our expert docents to many tour groups throughout the day.

Three full-color interpretive signs designed by Merald Clark and funded by the Florida Humanities Council are currently being manufactured, and they will soon enhance the new Trail segment for our visitors. We are grateful to the Florida Humanities Council for their support of tent rental and travel expenses for our out-of-town speakers, and to the dozens for RRC volunteers who managed parking, logistics, visitor assistance, Calusa Tastings and site tours during the day.