On the weekend of November 8th and 9th, the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville held Paleofest96, a festival celebrating Florida Paleontology. It was our first attempt at such a venture, and fortunately the success of this event exceeded our most optimistic expectations.
Over 350 registrants participated in this two-day event, which was organized by FLMNH staff Marc Frank, Douglas Jones, Bruce MacFadden, Carol Pooser, Roger Portell and co-sponsored by the FLMNH, The Paleontological Society and Florida Paleontological Society. Over 75 volunteers, including many UF students and the FLMNH Museum Associates, worked very hard and thereby ensured the overall success of this event. Paleofest96 activities included a Friday night reception social and dedication of the Florida 40 Million Years Ago exhibit and Leisey Equus horse skeleton (see photo). Saturday's events included 32 workshops, mostly on Florida fossils, special displays by many of the states fossil clubs and related organizations, a fund-raising happy-hour and auction, and book-signing and public lecture entitled "Discovering Dinosaurs" by noted dinosaur paleontologist and author (of Lone Star Dinosaurs and Quest for African Dinosaurs) Dr. Louis L. Jacobs III, geology professor and museum director at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. In addition to the Paleofest96 registrants, another 300 children and adults from the surrounding community attended the Saturday evening dinosaur lecture.
On many fronts, Paleofest96 was a resounding success: It brought together Florida paleofolks, allowed us to introduce the FLMNH to many first-time visitors, provided community visibility for our museum's programs, allowed a fun learning environment, and, last but certainly not least, the net proceeds from Paleofest96 totaled 13,500, which will be used to support the paleontological activities and educational programs here at the FLMNH. Many of those in attendance are supporters of the Pony Express program, and we sincerely thank you for attending the event. We hope that Paleofest96 allowed you an additional opportunity to enjoy Florida fossils (including horses, of course) and to make new paleofriends.