Calendar of Events  

Fossil Festival 2014

Let the party begin! We already have our Friday and Saturday night bands scheduled and you won't be disappointed. Friday night features one the most popular East Coast club bands around. The The Mikele Buck Band promises a hard-driving way to kick off the festival! What unique musical feat do these guys manage to pull off? They make great use of a banjo in unexpected ways.

Saturday night features the Country/Country Rock sounds of the The Old Southern Moonshine Revival. These guys didn't let much grass grow under their feet. They're playing to sold-out crowds and quickly making a name for themselves in the charts.

Past Festival Fun

Fossil Master-2013

Congratulations, Judy Stiles!

In 1976, a college geology course introduced Judy Stiles to fossil collecting. Searching the Monterey Bay area for fossil shark's teeth, brachiopods and crabs sparked a love of paleontology that has become her lifelong hobby. When her husband decided to relocate his business to North Carolina, Judy was at first unwilling to move. Then the mother of his business partner, Thelma Bennett, sent Judy 6 shark's teeth from NC. Those 6 teeth convinced Judy that NC had a lot to offer to fossil collectors and she needed no further prompting to relocate. In Judy's words, "Thelma Bennett, a Past Fossil Master and much loved fossil collector, became my friend, my confidant, my mentor and my fossil partner for over 20 years."

Judy's fossil collecting adventures have expanded greatly. She has collected in Georgia (trilobites),W. Virginia and Colorada (plant fossils),Utah (insects), Virginia (shells), Wyoming (fish), S. Dakota (baculites) and Nebraska (sabre tooth cats, turtles and oreodonts). In addition, shark teeth in Maryland and S. Carolina haven't had much relief from her sharp eyes.

In Judy's own words--"I have worked at the Aurora Fossil Museum for the past three years, after having formerly volunteered there. I enjoy meeting the visitors and seeing their appreciation for all the fossils. One of the opportunities I have at the museum is giving talks to children and adults about Aurora's fossils. I have also taught a fossil class at Camp Don Lee in Minnesott Beach, NC. Although I've enjoyed the many fossils I've collected over the years, I have found the best part of fossil collecting is the friends one makes. They are the ones who see you covered in mud, soaking wet with "helmet hair" and they still stay your friends. Be kind to the people you meet--they are the ones who will lift you up along the way."

Judy is a founding member of the North Carolina Fossil Club (past NCFC Board Member and Secretary), Aurora Fossil Club (longtime Secretary) and the Special Friends of the Aurora Fossil Museum. She is also a faithful Fossil Festival Volunteer and an invaluable guide for fossil hunts at PotashCorp-Aurora.

Thank you, Judy, for so freely sharing your knowledge and love of fossils.

Fossil Festival-2012

The 19th Annual Aurora Fossil Festival was held on May 25, 26 and 27, 2012. Sponsored by the Aurora-Richlands Chamber of Commerce, the event brought visitors from all over the world-most in search of new fossils to add to their collections. The museum always has an active role in making this yearly event a success and we were especially "hard at it" again this year.

Opening ceremonies began at 6 pm Friday on Main Street in Aurora with the official crowning of the Fossil Master followed by a concert. This year's evening entertainment was provided by The Ginger Thompson Band. Her 5 piece band came with combined bios that included sharing the stage with such notables as The Platters, The Coasters and Herman's Hermits. Their well rounded playlist included everything from Randy Travis country to Lionel Rithchie smoothies. Everyone considered this band to be ideal opening for our festival.

On Saturday morning, the serious fossil fun began. Vendors were open by 8 and ready to help you acquire the fossil of your dreams. If fossils weren't your "thing", you could enjoy the lawnmower pull, take a free bus tour of the local Potash-Corp Mine, take a helicopter ride or take your kids to the carnival. The parade was considered the highlight of the day. There was ample good food and the opportunity to find unique gifts, for yourself or others, was unsurpassed. The Education Tent featured many new displays this year and the Aurora Community Center featured exhibits by various well known fossil clubs and museums. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the Smithsonian Institution and the Virginia Museum of Natural History were available to help identify those problematic fossils we had found in the past year.

At 3pm, our Annual Friends of the Museum Fossil Auction began at the Museum Learning Center. This auction is a key player in helping our museum maintain its admission free policy. We thank them all for their many hours of sweat equity.

No southern festival is complete without a street dance and we were happy to oblige. This year's band is considered one of the the hottest dance bands in Eastern NC. Starting at 7pm, Train Wreck offered up a combination of Funk, Soul and Rock and Roll that kept everyone's toes tapping. Their riveting horn section and strong vocals has assured their future invitation to Aurora.

Sunday morning offerings included a non-denomination service followed by an all-day gospel sing-along featuring music of several genres.

Fossil Master 2012!

Congratulations! BJ Blake

When BJ first visited Aurora as a sailor in 1997, little did she realize it would soon become her new home. Relocation also marked the beginning of a new obsession. Growing up in the Florida Keys, she was familiar with the shark teeth commonly found on the beaches. But they did little to prepare her for the quality of fossils she would later find at Aurora. Her first introduction to Aurora's "official" fossil was by way of getting a shark tooth in her car tire. That led to a trip to the Aurora Fossil Museum for more information and the start of a very active new hobby.

BJ has served as a fossil guide at PotashCorp for 11 years. She has been the Fossil Auction coordinator for the fossil festival since 2000. In addition, she is Aurora Fossil Club Treasurer, Aurora Fossil Museum volunteer, a member of The Fossil Forum, and Field Trip reporter for She also assisted the Smithsonian Institution is acquiring new specimens of "cookie cutter" shark teeth. BJ's main fossil interest is the study and collection of cetacean (whale, dolphin, porpoise) fossils. She has donated many fossils for study and display to River's Edge Elementary School (Port Saint Lucie, Fla.) and Forest Grove Middle School (Fort Pierce, Fla.). A registered nurse for 22 years, BJ is currently employed at Vidant Family Medicine in Aurora.

Thank you, BJ, for your service to the Aurora fossil community!

Friends of the Museum scheduled three very interesting speakers on Saturday. The free lectures were held at the main museum building. A review follows.

  • Dave Bohaska--"Origin and Evolution of whales, dolphins, and porpoises."

    Dave Bohaska (center) with Jorge Velez-Juarbe (left) and Nicholas Pyenson (right)

    The origin of the Order Cetacea (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) is an example of a major evolutionary transition; the return of terrestrial mammals to the sea. Dave will discuss what land mammal group is thought to be the ancestor of modern whales, and present the evidence for that. His talk will include discussion of some of the early (prehistoric) whales, the two living groups (toothed and baleen whales), and an overview of cetacean diversity, both living and fossil. A variety of fossil whales and dolphins have been found in Lee Creek Mine.

    Dave is well respected in our East Coast amateur fossil circles and has been a guest at the festival since it's beginning. After working as a registrar at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland, in 1989 Dave began work at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution where he is currently a Museum Specialist (research assistant) in the Department of Paleobiology . His work focuses on fossil marine mammals with field work conducted primarily at Lee Creek (Aurora), Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, and other Coastal Plain sites in North and South Carolina and Georgia. Dave is one of those rare scientists who enjoys getting his shoes muddy in the field as much as the lab research work that follows. Unknown to most people is the fact that Dave began his career studying fossil birds. Dave was also a consultant on the BBC series Walking With Beasts. A new species of fossil whale related to Belugas and Narwals has been named in honor of him. Bohaskaia monodontoides, as the new fossil whale is known, was recently described in a paper in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology by Jorge Velez-Juarbe of Howard University, who is also a Smithsonian predoctoral fellow, and Nicholas Pyenson of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

  • John Metts--"From Pleistocene to Eocene"

    A discussion of the fossil fauna of Giant Cement Quarry from an expert on prehistoric archeocete whales. We hope you didn't miss this one!

  • George Powell--"A Whale of a Challenge"

    George Powell began his fossil collecting hobby as a child. Now retired, George devotes his time to sharing his knowledge of the fossil world. He freely donates his time to Aurora Fossil Museum and is quite well known on the fossil show circuit all over the United States. George is a member of the Aurora Fossil Club, Maryland Geological Society, American Fossil Federation, North Carolina Fossil Club and National Capitol Fossil Society. George’s displays are unique and reflect a long time commitment to the hobby of fossil collecting—partial dentitions of sharks and some nearly complete associated specimens of marine mammals as well as one of the finest collections of early seal fossils.

    In the autumn of 1992, George began, with a crew of volunteers, the excavation of a large associated set of shark teeth from the then, rather poorly documented Parotodus benedini. This collection proved to be most valuable to the scientific community, resulting in the publication of Reconstructed Dentition of the Rare Lamnoid Shark Parotodus benedini (le Hon) from the Yorktown Formation (Early Pliocene) at Lee Creek Mine, North Carolina which George co-authored with Dr. Bretton Kent. George later donated a cast of the dentition to the Aurora Fossil Museum and it is now part of our permanent display.

    In 2010, George and a team of volunteers from the Friends of the Museum began preparation of large Yorktown whale. His presentation showed the work and skill needed to properly prepare a fossil for long range preservation. A Power Point show guided you step by step to achieving similar results with your own fossil collection.

    Images from 2011

    Friends member, John Keklak, had no shortage of people signing up for the fossil auction.

    "Around Town" Activities from Festival

    Lost Worlds Fossils had a large variety of fossils for sale.

    Identifing fossil whale earbones was made simpler with this popular display.

    A modern bear meets his fossil ancestor in this display by Schiele Museum.

    Dave Bohaska of the Smithsonian Institution discusses the evolution of whales with Joy Herrington of NCFC.

    Our Official Raffle Boy

    Dylan has attended the festival every year since his birth. In 2006, he got to help show off the huge Raffle tooth.

    Dylan was back in 2007, again helping to raffle the huge C. megalodon tooth. His bright smile proved irrestible to most. Thanks Dylan!

    Dylan is beginning to be recognized on the streets of Aurora. In 2008, as our "Official Raffle Boy", he was again helping Miss Anne sell tickets for the big raffle tooth. His efforts are appreciated.

    At Fossil Festival 2009, few could resist Dylan's efforts at selling raffle tickets for the "big tooth". Thanks Dylan!

    Dylan's raffle partner was unable to come to festival this year so he took a break from his regular duties. He still managed to hold the big tooth for a photo.

    One notable absence at festival 2011 was Dylan. We all missed you Dylan but look forward to your visit in 2012.


    For a look at some of our unique Festival 2011 auction items, click the links below.

    2011 Auction Gallery
  • 2012 Raffle Carcharocles megalodon tooth
  • Platygonus compressus
  • Samotherium sp.
  • Beringiaphyllum cupanoides
  • Harpatocarcinus sp.
  • Neotherium mircim
  • Otodus obliquus
  • C. megalodon
  • Allodesmus kelloggi