Native American Festival set for this weekend

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Star File Photo/Abby Morris-Frye Eddie Swimmer, a former world champion hoop dancer, will once again be performing at the annual Native American Festival coming up this weekend at Sycamore Shoals State Park.

Star File Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
Eddie Swimmer, a former world champion hoop dancer, will once again be performing at the annual Native American Festival coming up this weekend at Sycamore Shoals State Park.

The sounds of drums and dancing will echo along the river and across the meadow at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area this weekend as the park presents its annual Native American Festival.
This year marks the 26th year the park has held the cultural festival and educational event which provides visitors with the opportunity to experience many facets of Native American culture, particularly that of the Cherokee.
The festival will be held from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 4, and will from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 5.
Most activities are held at Fort Watauga, unless it rains. In the event of rain the show will relocate to the Visitors Center. On Saturday evening, a traditional campfire will be held at the far end of the meadow in front of Fort Watauga at 7 p.m. with several guest storytellers.
This weekend long festival will feature traditional and contemporary arts and crafts, traditional Native American song and dance, Cherokee storytelling and legends, Native American flute, Cherokee language workshops, and craft demonstrations. The event also includes a number of vendors who will be selling a variety of items.
Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area Park Manager Jennifer Bauer said unique feature of the Native American Culture festival is the educational and demonstration area, located within Fort Watauga.
“The dance circle is located in the center of the fort, where the popular traditional dance and drum performances take place,” Bauer said. “In addition, flute music, storytelling, lectures, and so much more take place within the circle, which share native culture and history with our visitors.”
The interior of the fort will also host a variety of excellent demonstrations, which include a children’s blowgun challenge, beadwork, gourd art, pine needle basketry, stone carving, Cherokee language, wood carving, flint-knapping, corn shuck dolls, native river cane flutes, pottery, and a replicated Cherokee cabin from the early 19th century with historical reenactors, Mark and Sherry Finchum.
Just outside the fort, exceptional Native American arts and crafts will be featured, in addition to ethnic Cherokee food, and a Lakota Tipi exhibit.
“In our annual tradition, the circle will host several performances of Native American music, drum, and dance,” Bauer said.
The dancing demonstrations will include the Fancy Dance and Hoop Dance, the Jingle Dance, the Men’s Traditional, Grass and Straight Dances, and many more. “All are invited to dance, so bring your regalia,” Bauer said.
A new addition to this year’s festival will be a demonstration of 18th century Cherokee social dancing. The host of this portion of the event, Dale Cloer, makes his home in Cherokee, North Carolina.
“Our featured Cherokee dancers are internationally known hoop dancer Eddie Swimmer, Head Man Jeff Kemp, and champion powwow dancer Nikki Crisp,” Bauer said.
Swimmer has captivated audiences across the globe using between 36 and 42 hoops. His accomplishments include a former World Champion Hoop Dancer title, performances in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and in the World Cup Soccer Tournament in Dallas Texas as well as choreographing the hoop dance for the hit Broadway show Annie Get Your Gun. Kemp has competitively placed in many powwows across the Southeastern United States for many years and has been the featured lead male dancer in a multitude of Native American Festivals. He also participates in many educational programs for schools and community events.
Crisp as danced across the world as well, and has been performing for more than 20 years. Her talents also include traditional beadwork and authentic frybread cooking. She will be providing food vending for this event, including her famous Indian tacos.
The featured storyteller for the 2016 festival is Freeman Owle. Bauer said. Owle is a noted lecturer, historian, and member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, and has traveled all over the eastern United States lecturing to various groups, which include churches, military units, and schools. He has told stories and presented programs on Cherokee history and culture throughout the Southeast for more than ten years.
Well known in the Cherokee community, Owle serves on the board of directors of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual and is a coordinator for the Cherokee Heritage Trails project of the Blue Ridge Heritage Initiative. He is one of the featured storytellers in the book Living Stories of the Cherokee, and he also appears in the video documentary Cherokee: The Principal People, which aired on public television in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kentucky.
Daniel Bigay, of Greeneville, will entertain with traditional flute music in addition to having his handmade, traditional Cherokee style flutes for sale. He is a flute maker, artist, performer, recording artist, and demonstrator, who lives with his wife, Kay LittleJohn, in the mountains of Tennessee. He has released two CD’s, the most recent being nominated for best flute recording at the 2005 Indian Summer Music Awards. Bigay and LittleJohn are passionate about education and sharing of the Cherokee culture in the school system, at Pow-Wow’s, and various shows and festivals. During the festival, LittleJohn will be sharing her talents as a storyteller.
Admission is $5 for adults and $1 for children. All proceeds from admissions go to Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park to support this event.

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