(February 22, 2018)—The Downtown Mesa Festival of the Arts is an eclectic place where local artists come together two times a month in Mesa, Arizona, to sell homemade foods and crafts. A small section of downtown Mesa lined with antique stores and local coffee shops provides an artsy backdrop for the fair. Artisan soaps, rings made out of spoons, baked goods, and other handmade crafts are available for purchase. So how do archaeology and Tonto National Monument (NM) fit in to this festival?
Tonto NM got involved with this festival in 2017 when Park Ranger Christa Sadler visited the event and thought it would be a good place to raise awareness of the monument. Being less than two hours away from Mesa, Tonto NM offers residents a perfect day trip. In order to get craft festival visitors interested in experiencing the monument, we have patches, stickers, and flyers available, and each month we try to do a different craft activity that relates to the monument.
Last week, with the help of Tonto NM Volunteer Susan Decker, I brought back a crowd favorite: argillite pendant-making. Initially, I set up two stations for pendant-making, but we ended up adding four more workstations as a crowd of children and adults formed to participate in the craft. While the kids waited for a station to open up, they colored Tonto NM postcards and asked us questions about the items presented on the touch-table. Using ancient technology, kids shaped, ground, and drilled pendants they were able to take home. I was again impressed by their determination and astute observations. Many commented on how long it took them to drill the holes and how incredible it was that people were doing this 700 years ago. Their appreciation makes this activity special—that, and seeing their joy at mess-making.
Over the course of the day, Susan and I spoke to 120 people that visited us at the booth. They asked great questions about the artifact replicas, received instructions on how to get to the monument, and made plans with their families right then and there to come visit. This event was a great example of how archaeology conferences, events, or national parks or monuments aren’t the only venues in which to share the importance of preservation through public archaeology. Archaeology is already interesting to people, so the trick is making it relevant and helping people make a personal connection to it.
Come visit the Downtown Mesa Festival of Arts and stop by our Tonto National Monument booth on March 3 and April 7, 2018 to see what we’ll offer next.