By Cheril Vernon
Messenger Copy Editor
ALTO – Visitors to the Caddo Mounds State Historical Site will be able to step back in time during the El Camino Real De Los Tejas Festival on Saturday, Oct. 28. Guided hikes, re-enactors, pioneer skills, Archeology Month activities, life-size Spanish games, a petting zoo, crafts, music and more on tap for the special event which will feature free admission for the day.
“It’s going to be a nice, cool, crisp day, very fall-like. There’s going to be a lot of different activities going on – more than just one thing that will interest those coming out. Not only is it an opportunity to get outside on a pretty day, but there’s the black powder firing, the guided hikes, the varied activities planned for the day,” Caddo Mounds State Historical Site (CMSHS) Site Manager Anthony Souther told The Messenger on Monday, Oct. 23.
“One facet of the day’s activities is connected to our segment of the El Camino Real de Los Tejas, which is a national historical trail. The segment is open to the public and there is outside narrative about the old Spanish road,” Souther continued. “Our fall festival is connected to that part of our history. We have re-enactors coming in setting up where the Spanish travelers and English travelers would have camped. They will be showing the camped life from the early 1800s.”
The festival will be held from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. at the Caddo Mounds State Historical Site, a Texas Historical Commission property, located off Hwy. 21 six miles west of Alto. The site features the remains of a large village and ceremonial center built by a group of Caddo Indians known as the Hasinai more than 1,200 years ago on the prairie overlooking the Neches River. Located along the historic El Camino de los Tejas, the site presents the culture and customs of the Caddo people through exhibits, displays and the preserved burial and ceremonial mounds.
“We will have crafts people showing off the crafts they make – soap makers, broom makers, an individual who makes ropes and cords out of natural plant fibers, spinners and weavers and possibly a carver or whittler,” Souther said. “I am hoping to have black powder firing enthusiasts to demonstrate what they do, as well as having a bow hunting organization getting kids introduced to bow hunting. The kids will have the opportunity to shoot a bow and air and throw an atlatl, a hunting device used by Native Americans.”
A guided tour “Foraging with Brandy McDaniel” will start at 11 a.m. Another guided tour will be held at 1 p.m. featuring Dr. Victor Galan, who will be leading the tour on the archeology of Caddo Mounds State Historical Site.
“We will have a plant foraging hike around the main trail and around the Indian mound site. We will identify plants for edible, medicinal and dye purposes,” Souther said. “We also will have another hike led by Dr. Galan highlighting the archeology that has taken place at the site.”
An archeologist, Galan is vice president of the Friends of Caddo Mounds and owner of Deep East Texas Archeological Consultants.
“The archeology walk will highlight the Native American component of this site, which includes a burial mound, temple mound and ceremonial town. This was from about 800 A.D. To 1300 A.D. When they abandoned the site. But they lived here continuously until they abandoned it – 400 years before the first Spanish came here in 1690,” Souther said.
Also during the day live performances are planned. At 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the Kisatchie Sound will perform stories for El Camino Real through music. At noon, the Sam Houston Ballet Folklorico will perform Mexican folklorico dances. Storytelling will be held inside the site’s museum.
For the kids, a petting zoo is planned. Children also will have the opportunity to participate in a life-sized Spanish game and other activities.
“We are going to set up a game board out on the lawn. The kids will be out on the ground moving these life-size objects around as game pieces,” Souther said.
The Friends of Caddo Mounds also are holding a Pumpkin Bake-Off/Cook-Off during the festival. Categories include the following: sweet and savory. Entry fee is $15 for the first entry and $10 for additional entries. The deadline to sign up to participate is Thursday, Oct. 26. The grand prize is a night at the Caddo Mounds Guest House with dinner provided. Second and third place prizes also will be given. To sign up for the bake-off, call CMSHS at 936-858-3218.
During the event, the pumpkin tasting plates will cost $5 each.
“The Friends of the Caddo Mounds is a non-profit foundation that supports our activities here. They are using the bake-off as a fund-raising event. Visitors will be able to pay for a plate and get samples of the food. It’s just another way to raise funds for the foundation, Souther said. “Our Friends group is very active in providing money and volunteer time. We would not be able to do this event without them.”
In addition, the Stephen F. Austin State University Society will have food for visitors to be able to purchase during the event in the Hospitality Administration area.
On Saturday, Oct. 28, the Caddo Mounds State Historical Site will not charge admission to visitors.
“We do the same thing for our spring event – Caddo Culture Day – we do not charge an admission that day either,” Souther said. “We encourage people to come out and look around. The museum was renovated three years ago. We have larger, new exhibits and new video. If they want to take a look around and see what’s going on, they are free to do that.”
The Caddo Mounds State Historical Site is located at 1649 State Hwy. 21 West in Alto. The site is located 6 miles west of Alto, and approximately 30 minutes from Crcokett, Lufkin and Nacogdoches. For additional information, visit www.visitcaddomounds.com or call 936-858-3218.