By Ashley Rader
The Native American Festival will return to Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area this weekend, featuring artists and speakers who will share information on Cherokee culture.
The weekend-long festival will put the spotlight on 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 and sales.
Sycamore Shoals Park Manager Jennifer Bauer said the Native American Festival is one of the park’s largest events.
“When the weather is nice, like they are saying it will be this weekend, we can see 1,550 to 2,000 visitors a day at the Native American Festival,” Bauer said. “It is definitely one of our larger events, along with the Siege of Fort Watauga, the outdoor drama ‘Liberty!’ and the Celtic Festival.”
Bauer said the event draws local residents and visitors from outside the immediate region. She said about 70 percent of the visitors to the Native American Festival are from the Tri-Cities, western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia, with the remainder coming from further away. She said many of the visitors are Cherokee or have some Cherokee heritage in their family tree.
“So many people in our region have some component of Native American heritage in their family history,” Bauer said.
The educational and demonstration area inside Fort Watauga is a unique feature of the Native American festival.
The dance circle, which Bauer noted was one of the most popular parts of the festival, is located in the center of the fort, where the popular traditional dance and drum performances take place. In addition, flute music, storytelling, lectures and other activities take place within the circle.
The traditional circle will host several performances of Native American music, drum and dance. 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. A newly added demonstration of 18th-century Cherokee social dancing will be a part of the dance circle. The host of this portion of the event is Dale Cloer of Cherokee, N.C. Lowery Begay will be the featured Hoop Dancer.