ALBANY -- Chehaw Park is once again beating the drums for its annual celebration of Native American history and culture. The Chehaw Native American Cultural Festival begins Friday and runs through Sunday.
The unique event includes tribal dancers, educational demonstrators and vendors from North and South America.
"This is an event we take a lot of pride in," said Ben Kirkland, the park's natural resources manager who also organizes the annual festival. "Among the dancers, demonstrators and vendors, we all try hard to educate the public about the Native American community, both historically and currently."
Diamond Brown, a council member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, is scheduled to return with anecdotes about the Cherokee culture. In addition to the popular Aztec dancers, this year's event also will feature specialty dances, like the Southeastern stomp dance and woodland dances of the Mohawk people. Many of the dances represent animals native to the Southeast and include the eagle dance, bear dance and buffalo dance.
All of the dancers, crafters and demonstrators are carefully chosen by Kirklandfor their skill and authenticity.
"They are not simply crafters. They are people who are very good at their crafts and also are using the same tools and techniques originally used, not modern tools and techniques. We have strict guidelines for our demonstrators, and these guys do a great job," Kirkland said.
"They know the history and pre-history, the archaeological and ethnological history, and are able to convey that to the public, whether it's a kindergarten kid or a college professor."
One such demonstrator is Neal Parr, who has been involved in Native American displays and historical interpretations for about 10 years. Returning for his second year at Chehaw, Parr will be clothed in Muscogee/Cherokee dress and will be displaying traditional native woodworking. He will be accompanied by his wife, Angela, and other family members who will be displaying Native American foods and hunting skills in a re-created camp.
More than 20 vendors will be offering food, as well as arts and crafts. Items for sale will include fine artwork, handcrafted silver and turquoise jewelry from the Navajo people of the Southwest, and a variety of unique goods from the Incas of Peru.
Admission to the festival, which will be held in the festival arena within the zoo, is included with regular park and zoo admission. Festival hours are Friday from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
For park and zoo ticketing prices or for more information, visit Chehaw's website at www.chehaw.org.