Monday, August 13, 2012

Baby Bye Bye Bye

Hanging out before the Open House

            This past weekend the Fort St. Joseph crew held our annual Open House, an opportunity for people from the community and anyone else who’s interested in the fort to come out and learn all about the dig. There were also re-enactors, men and women who not only dressed up in period garb but also slept in tents in Riverfront Park, fired cannons, and prepared period food. It was an action-packed weekend full of plenty to do, and 1800 people came out over the two-day period to enjoy the activities and learn about everything we’d been doing on the site for the past five weeks.
Jordan welcoming guests to Feature 14
            Though I’m a bit skittish around strangers, I found that I had a BLAST this weekend. It was really exciting when I was down on the site itself and answering questions about our units and the fireplace that we’d uncovered for the public to see. Everyone who walked by was incredibly interested, and even though I probably talked quite a few ears off, I think that everyone who stopped by enjoyed the experience as much as I did. And that really surprised me. I’d heard the numbers from Dr. Nassaney – 2,000 visitors at the highest – and it was hard to believe. Not that many people I knew really cared about archaeology. I was happy to be proven wrong by everyone who came out this weekend to check out the site and all of the great work we’ve been doing.
Captain Leah Sparrow
            And while the Open House itself was incredible, I have to admit that one of my favorite parts of the weekend was the night we spent with the re-enactors. Leah and I headed over to the camp Saturday afternoon and were greeted with friendly smiles and a variety of drinks to choose from. One of the re-enactors, Stefan, showed us his British redcoat, and it wasn’t long before the both of us had costumes of our own. Leah and I made dashing voyageurs (though Leah looked more like she’d just stepped off the set of Pirates of the Caribbean 5). When the rest of the gang arrived, they too got all dressed up, and soon we were just as home in the camp as the real re-enactors were. We had a huge feast of period food laid out for us with meat pie, banana bread, potatoes and ham, and all sorts of delicious dishes. Then we were given the opportunity to work off our meal in some authentic period dancing, which to me still seems very similar to a square dance, which is the sort of stuff we learn in high school in upstate New York. Anyway, we had a blast with the dances (even if we got lost a lot) and the night got even more exciting when we participated in some tomahawk throwing. It turned out that a few of the girls were naturals, though almost everyone sunk their tomahawk once, including Dr. Nassaney himself. Though I didn’t get to throw much, I did get to fire a replica of an 18th century musket, thanks to a very cool re-enactor named Ramone. Sue got quite a few shots off too, and she sure looked cool!
            Unfortunately, our fun time with the re-enactors and the Open House weekend ended, as did today, our last day in the field doing archaeological work. Tomorrow we finish backfilling our units and packing up the site and the house where we’ve been living for the duration of the field season. And then, once all that’s done, we’re back to Kalamazoo. 
            It’s been a wild ride, and I just want to thank the whole Niles community for being so awesome; and here’s to all of those families who came out last weekend to learn more about archaeology and the old French fort that’s been the focus of excavation for the past ten plus years. Thanks for everything!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Thank You Everyone!

Open House wrapped up today at 4 pm followed by a special canoe ride for the hard-working student archaeologists at Fort St. Joseph. Once again our event was a huge success. Visitor counts estimate about 1,800 people came to join in on the fun, some for the first time this year, many returning for a second, third, or fourth year and some even came in from as far as New Jersey (full disclosure: that's because they're my family). Our students were excited to share everything they've been learning this summer and were grateful for the opportunity to talk to so many interested people. We'd like to say a gigantic THANK YOU! to everyone who came out and helped make this event a success. Stay tuned, we have a  few more days left in the field and a few more exciting stories to tell!

- Erica

FSJ Archaeologists pose for a quick photo after an exhausting, but fun, weekend