The parking lots were filling up within an hour of the official 10 a.m. start of the Calusa Heritage Day festival Saturday at the Calusa Heritage Trail on Pine Island.
"It just doesn't get any better than this," Cindy Bear, organizer of the event said. "All of our hard work pays off when this many people come out. Of course this great weather didn't hurt. This is the ninth annual Calusa Heritage Day. It is an important celebration of the Calusa and their archaeology. This year we are thrilled to have Victor Thompson who will be speaking about how the Calusa crafted the ancient landscape here in Southwest Florida."
There was a wide range of events placed along the 3,700-foot Calusa Heritage Trail. The trail is used as an "interpretive" walkway "that leads visitors through the mounds, canals, and other features of the Pineland archaeological site."
Professor Victor Thompson points to Mound Key, believed to be the ceremonial center of the Calusa Indians.
Saturday there were cultural and conservation exhibits as well as artists and authors of children's books about the Calusa Indians. James Snyder, author of "The Cross and the Mask," read from his book about the first Spanish settlers of Southwest Florida. Gerald Hausman, author and storyteller, presented "Legends of the Earth." Hausman's books have received numerous awards in the Native America category.
There were numerous artists presenting their works.
Marty Haythorn makes pottery.
"I've been coming to this event for five years now," Haythorn said. "I am of both European and Native American heritage. I became interested in Native American pottery when I was a child when my family traveled throughout the Southwest. I met a man by the name of Ivan Gundrum who created museum quality reproductions of Southeastern Pre-Columbian pottery. I picked up where Ivan Gundrum left off."
Food for the event was provided by Mel Meo's Fish Wagon and Little Lilly's Island deli. One of the activities created for the event was Calusa Tastings where visitors could sample traditional Calusa foods. The Calusa were a coastal people that ate mostly fish, oysters and other seafood. An open fire-pit was created to roast oysters, and fish that were served with chili peppers. It seems the Calusa liked their food spiced with chili peppers chili pepper seeds dating back 2,000 years were unearthed here.
There were tours every half hour of the Calusa Heritage Trail. These tours provide information about the Calusa Indians who inhabited the Pineland site, their culture and environment. The trail features an observation platform atop the site's tallest shell mound.
Captiva Cruises offered a narrated archaeological tour of Pine Island Sound and the Florida Public Archaeology Network hosted a Calusa tool and weapons demonstration.
"I think it was a great day for this event," Cindy Bear said. "We really got lucky with this spectacular weather.