Monday, June 29, 2015

Closing Time

This field season’s Open House theme was “Seeking Shelter from the Storm.”  This is in keeping with the season’s archaeological focus of architecture at Fort St. Joseph, and on Saturday was a very fitting title for the festivities.  Attendees crowded under white tents to hear opening remarks from Robert Myers and hoped the rain would soon subside. The community of Niles again showed its resilience to the elements, however, as people came out to enjoy many sights, activities, and presentations from the Open House participants. The rain from the previous night was enough to raise the river and prevent entrance onto the archaeological site yet again but attendees enjoyed many other events and had a great time.
Our new interpretive panels were a highlight of the Open House
(photo by John Cardinal)
The weather on Sunday was much more appealing to most as the sun shone and birds chirped. The sun brought out around 550 visitors to the site.  These visitors enjoyed learning about a native style structure built on-site by the Pokagon band of Potawatomi from Amelia Harp, tours of Father Allouez’s cross and the commemorative Fort Saint Joseph Boulder as well as the Lyne site (a nearby archaeological site associated with the fort), and demonstrations from a number of historical interpreters including timber frame construction, blacksmithing, textile spinning, cooking, and quill writing. Sarett Nature Center also provided rides in a Voyageur canoe, offering participants a look at what being a voyageur during the Fur Trade would be like, about a dozen passengers at a time!
A french timber framing demonstration
(photo by John Cardinal)
Other activities were provided for children such as a mock dig that taught kids how archaeologists excavate and sift for artifacts.  Appetites were satisfied throughout the weekend thanks to Boy Scout Troop 579 from here in Niles, MI.  Noel Bash and her company of talented dancers demonstrated a wide array of 18th century style dancing and on many occasions got the public on their feet to join in and dance along. We could not be happier with the turn out of the Open House and can’t wait to see everyone out in the summer of 2016!
Speaking on behalf of the archaeological team, we are extremely grateful to everyone who participated in and attended this year’s Open House.  I was a field school student in 2013 and am still amazed to witness the excitement and openness of the Niles community at the Open House and throughout the season.  Although we are sad that this exceptionally challenging field season is almost at a close, we are truly grateful for the words of encouragement and offers of assistance from supporters of the project.
Tomorrow the archaeology crew will be packing up and leaving Niles.  For the project veterans, this always comes with a pang of sadness as we think of Niles as a second home.  I’m certain the students will be saddened as well.  Niles has been a key instrument in their growing not only as experienced archaeologists, but as members of a community. We’d like to thank everyone who made this field season one for the books and a wonderful learning experience for all of us.


We'll see you at the 2016 Open House!
(photo by John Cardinal)