Good times and good friends: ARPP open house

By Alyssa McManus and Tammy Montes

Alyssa McManus

Near the end of each field season, the Aucilla River Prehistory Project welcomes its crew and the public to journey down to Nutall Rise for an open house. It is a time for unity and community, when the staff and volunteers who work endless hours underwater, on the screen deck, and in the lab can share with the public, among them respected colleagues and supporters, the story that is constantly unfolding each season we are there. For crewmembers, who do not weather out the entire season on the river, and for those not able to participate in a hands-on manner, it is a

Tammy Montes

wonderful opportunity to congregate, and fit the pieces of the puzzle together. As a result, we all develop a greater understanding of Florida’s first people and their natural history. That’s a good enough reason to travel to the event.

In 1997, the ARPP hosted two open houses, attended by many crewmembers, supporters, friends, and family. One could meet naturalists, archaeologists, paleontologists, anthropologists, flint knappers, divers, enthusiasts, and students all in the same group. Somehow, we all unite in our desire to know what happened at this place THOUSANDS of years ago. It’s a bit like going to a “Paleofest”—complete with atlatl throwing, and displays of artifacts and fossils. We had site tours in the spring, where visitors could see underwater archaeologists at work, and the operation that supports them. The highlight of the fall open house was a wonderful slide and video presentation narrated by Andy Hemmings that really brought the big picture into view. These events are fun, and great for informing people just what it is that we do, and why we do it.

At every open house, the ARPP acknowledges those whose efforts have helped the project. During the spring field season’s open house, the crew presented a fabulous cake to Alyssa and Al McManus, in honor of their recent marriage (Thanks guys!!!). The dedicated and long-standing support of Dr. Hoyt Horne, Jim Hunt, David Janet, and J.R. Walker was acknowledged during the fall field season open house with presentations of Ken Kirkpatrick’s “The Past Made Present” artwork (featured on the cover of the 1997 Aucilla River Times. National Geographic Society patches were presented to each crew member.

If you have never been to an open house, you should make the drive next field season. Although veteran ARPP volunteer Ken Kirkpatrick II was unable to join us for the fall open house (due to a previous job commitment in Saudi Arabia), his family’s friend Cass McKown-Heavener, her daughter Calli, and Ken’s father, Ken Sr. drove 8 hours from their homes in South Carolina to join in the festivities. The drive alone is like a natural history field trip through the wilderness preserves of Florida’s coastal lowlands - deer, bear, and herons are often sighted. And there is always a grand feast. We had a great cookout in May, and this past fall a delicious barbecue dinner was provided by Jim Hunt’s Zaney Foods catering. A good time is always had by all down at the rise.

Special thanks go out to all those who make our open houses so memorable and fun. It is great to get together with fellow crewmembers and people in the community to share such a special project. Everyone contributes to the success and good spirit of our endeavor to tell the story of Florida’s distant past.