Fifteen years ago, Lisa Nielsen, the supervisory training specialist for Amistad National Recreation Area, saw something she would never forget at the archaeological fair in Del Rio.
An elderly woman who had come to the event was in tears after witnessing presenters and the community flock together to learn about the past. A past she very much missed and was overwhelmed by how much time and effort the two entities put forth.
“I never forgot that moment and it made me realize the importance of continuing to educate the local community of its past,” Nielsen said.
A past that was brought to life Saturday during the 17th annual Archaeology Fair held at Whitehead Museum, with presenters from around the state, activities for the children and Buffalo soldiers bellowing their history.
“It’s an outstanding opportunity for us to spread the history of the Buffalo Soldiers and their untold story,” said Larry Carter, a member of the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers Association.
Carter and his entourage showed the visitors several items that a Buffalo Soldier had: a canteen, soap, tobacco, spare horseshoes, spurs and rifle.
“I always get asked what a Buffalo Soldier is and I am thrilled to engross them in the life of one.”
Another popular event was the corn-grinding demonstration.
Children learned how to grind corn using several types of tools, many which are still in used today around the world. The process included grinding the corn into maize and then making corn tortillas.
“I wanted my daughter, Addy, to see and experience different things,” Shawna Schreiber said.
Her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter had trouble at first with the process, but in the end was able to complete the task.
“It’s our first time coming to this event and everything looks good,” Schreiber said. “I’m glad we were able to come.”
While Schreiber and her daughter were busy grinding corn, people gathered for the friction fire-starting demonstration, which showed patrons how to start a fire with sticks, bark and grass.
“I wanted to show people how to properly start a fire with primitive tools,” said Jack Johnson, NRA archaeologist. “They saw how it is done in real-life, not like on TV.”
Also popular with visitors was the historical and present day uses of plants, which showed the many types of plants and their many uses throughout history.
“Plants are and have been very important to us,” said Maria Onofre, a volunteer. “We just have lost or forgotten how vital they are. I like teaching people who are curious about them.”
“This was a great learning experience for us,” said Isabel Stuart-Garza, who brought her son Will and his six-year-old cousin Morgan Landrum. “Learning about plants was incredible. We didn’t know the many ways they could be used.”
Chuck Stone, who manned the blacksmithing area of the fair, also shared his sentiment of losing a powerful skill.
“I just wanted to show them this old craft, he said. “It’s not used as much anymore and wanted to show them that they can do something more with their hands than just sit home on their video games.”
No video game was necessary at the fair, which was brought together by Amistad National Recreation Area and the Whitehead Museum, also featured: flint knapping, prehistoric musical instruments, tables loom weaving, wool-carding, early Texan pioneer life, with horse, longhorn, sheep and goat, rabbit stick throwing, rock art painting.
In all 16 different stations were set up for the community to come and explore, lean and enjoy the past in a hands-on experience.
“The event has grown since we first started,” Nielsen said. “In the beginning, we averaged 15-200 visitors. Now, we find 500-700 coming to learn about the past. I want to thank all the museum, volunteers, presenters and the community for making this an unforgettable success.”