Happy birthday, Richard Archbold!

The winners of the 2021 birthday cake contest: Left: the delicious ‘most original’ and ‘most Richard Archbold-inspired’ birthday cake, and scrub-cake entries top right: ‘most Richard Archbold-inspired’ and bottom right: ‘most original.’ Photos by Laura Reed.

Author: Laura Reed

On April 9, 2007, Archbold Biological Station founder, Richard Archbold would have celebrated his 100th birthday. Archbold Biological Station celebrated that centennial anniversary with the opening of the Richard Archbold mural in the town of Lake Placid, and with its first ‘birthday party’ in Mr. Archbold’s honor. Since then, Station staff, friends, and family have celebrated Mr. Archbold’s birthday with a celebratory dinner and happy hour. The closure of the Station to the public due to COVID concerns in March 2020 led to the difficult decision to cancel the 113th birthday celebration. For this year’s 114th birthday, the celebration was considerably different, but a welcome step on the path back to normalcy.

Many may not know that Richard Archbold was a man of strict habits, and he kept a schedule of meals that repeated each week. From Mr. Archbold’s journals, we can tell exactly what he and any visiting researchers to the Station would have been eating on a two-weekly schedule.  A traditional Archbold birthday celebration features a dinner menu based on this schedule, with Mr. Archbold’s favored cocktails served beforehand. Festivities include storytelling and a recitation of all the plant and animal species named after Mr. Archbold (over 80 species of mosses, flowering plants, insects, spiders, birds, and more).

The two-week schedule of dinners used for the Archbold birthday dinner menus. Last year’s dinner would have been cubed steak, and this year’s fried fish or tuna casserole.

Since the Station’s kitchen and dining room are closed at this time, the 2021 birthday celebration organizers had to improvise with plated snacks served outdoors, and well distanced, in the breezeway of the Frances Hufty Learning Center. Archbold’s head of Human Resources, Sharon Hawkins said, “An important part of the Archbold experience is the culture of sharing time, space, and ideas with other staff and visiting researchers, and everyone has missed that ‘family style’ gathering tremendously over the past year. Our hope was to recreate a little of that camaraderie while maintaining our safety standards.”

Staff were invited to participate in contests virtually and in-person: the first-ever T-shirt design contest was held, with eleven designs submitted for printing new Archbold Biological Station and Buck Island Ranch shirts, and winners to be announced soon. Staff members also filled in a special Archbold-themed crossword puzzle online, available here: https://crosswordhobbyist.com/903525/ARCHBOLDS-BIRTHDAY

Finally, several members of Archbold and Buck Island Ranch staff competed for the title of ‘most original’ and ‘most Richard Archbold-inspired’ birthday cakes. Both edible cakes and ‘scrub-cakes’ made from materials found in the Florida Scrub were accepted. Interns Lydia Landau, Scott Dai, Alma Reyes Gonzalez, Nate Spicer, and Brittany Welch won both edible cake categories, with intern Margaret Davenport and executive assistant Laura Reed winning the scrub-cake prizes.

The evening ended on a high note, as Archbold communications coordinator Zach Forsburg described, “Every year we look forward to honoring our founder, Richard Archbold. This year was particularly fun as we had an energetic and socially distant game of Pictionary between staff and interns. The victory went to the staff after a heated head-to-head tiebreaker round.”

While 2021 was a different approach to the Archbold birthday celebration, it was certainly appreciated by those staff and interns who were able to attend.

A section of the Richard Archbold mural at Miller’s Central Air, dedicated November 27, 2007 by Archbold Expeditions and the Lake Placid Mural Society. The entire mural may be viewed at 19 West Interlake Blvd. in Lake Placid, or on the Archbold website.

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