New Cahokia Mounds exhibit features 700-year-old canoe

A lifesize diorama in “Wetlands and Waterways: the Key to Cahokia” exhibit at Cahokia Mounds features a Native American woman harvesting squash, hunters and a lake.
A lifesize diorama in “Wetlands and Waterways: the Key to Cahokia” exhibit at Cahokia Mounds features a Native American woman harvesting squash, hunters and a lake. Picasa

A 700-year-old canoe discovered on a sandbar in Arkansas and painstakingly restored at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is the centerpiece of a new permanent exhibit opening Sunday at the site.

“Wetlands and Waterways: the Key to Cahokia” focuses on life along the rivers and wetlands of the Mississippi Valley that gave rise to Cahokia Mounds, America’s first city.

It includes a 52-foot-long mural depicting a backwater lake, river bluffs, forests and fields typical of the American Bottom floodplain. The mural serves as a backdrop to a life-size diorama showing a woman harvesting squash, other native crops, a lake and a man and a boy loading their canoe for trading with a nearby village.

The dugout canoe is in its own case. Made of bald cypress between 600 and 700 years ago, it was found on a sandbar in the St. Francis River in Arkansas after a flood. The Illinois State Archaeological Society bought the canoe and donated it to Cahokia Mounds. It was submerged in a chemical solution for three years to help preserve it and was allowed to dry out for another two years.

Tool marks and charring from the manufacturing process are visible on its surfaces.

Visitors can get a preview of the exhibit at a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center. It includes desserts, refreshments and entertainment, as well authors Lori Belknap and Molly Wawrzyniak signing copies of the exhibit’s companion book. Admission to the reception is $20; free for members of the Museum Society. Tickets can be purchased in the museum gift shop or by calling 618-344-7316.

The site is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday.

Germantown Spassfest

Germantown will roll out its 48th annual Spassfest, a celebration of the town’s German Heritage, Friday through Sunday at “Red” Schoendienst Park.

Food including bratwurst and knackwurst, fried chicken and homemade German potato salad will be available for purchase beginning at 4 p.m. Friday. Other stands, games and rides open at 6 p.m. Friday. A bags tournament tarts at 7, and Vote for Pedro takes the stage at 8 p.m

Kinder corner, with games, face painting and prizes just for kids, is open from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and 1 to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Saturday’s events begin with the Clinton County Humane Society’s meet and gree and pet adoption from 10 a.m. to noon. Everything else begins at 11 a.m. Saturday and continues to midnight. Saturday events include all-you-can-ride writstbands, 1-5 p.m.; a custom and antique bike show; a DJ, 5-8 p.m.; and music by the Deutschmeister Brass Band, 1 to 5 p.m. and Well Hungarians, 8 p.m. to midnight. The Spassfest Wine and Beer Home-Brew Brew Off stars at 3 p.m. Brewers will compete for prizes, including a $500 People’s Choice Award.

Also on Saturday, Hugz & Fitz and Core Elite Tumble & Cheer will perform from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; a washer tournament begins at noon; and a Polka Mass is at 4 p.m. in nearby St. Boniface Church. A parade steps off at 5:30.

On both Friday and Saturday, Brian Willis of Willis Wooden Creations will create two works of art that will be auctioned at 10 p.m. Saturday.

On Sunday, breakfast will be served from 8 a.m. to noon, and Spassfest concludes at noon with the grand prize drawing.