Ocmulgee National Monuments annual homage to Macons original inhabitants is back this weekend.
The two-day Ocmulgee Indian Celebration features dancing, musicians, storytellers, artists and historic lifestyle demonstrations. The event runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Part of the parks stated mission is of course to not only preserve the mounds and the cultural site here but its also to educate the public about the mounds and about modern Native American people, said Ocmulgee Superintendent Jim David. The celebration is a very important part of that mission.
Members from as many as 20 tribes attend the festival, he said.
We have a number of groups, especially Creek coming down from Oklahoma, Cherokees coming from North Carolina, Choctaw from Mississippi and Seminoles coming up from Florida, David said. Its a good representation of the tribes from the Southeast.
Since Ocmulgee was the homeland of the Muscogee Creek, members of that nation will be sending an honor guard from Oklahoma to open the festival as well as some of their princesses to explain their culture.
Historically, this was the homeland for the Creeks. Therefore, we always feel its important to have the Creeks play a major role in the event, David said.
The performances and demonstrations will showcase traditional dances and songs as well as new traditions.
Its a great thing for families to come out and really see a good example of native culture, to get around some of the stereotypes, David said. While the fancy dancing is very showy and crowd pleasing, we think its very important to have the traditional Creek stomp dance group because that is the kind of dancing that was done here on this site for centuries.
More than 19,000 people attended last years celebration including the Friday events, which are open only to school groups.
Last year, Saturday was just unbelievable, David said.
He said the park had to use its overflow parking plan for the first time and cleared space this year for another 100 cars.
Tickets are sold by Ocmulgees nonprofit association, which provides supplemental funding to the park.
We go to them for funding for other programs and things from my park budget I might not be able to afford, David said. The success of the celebration definitely helps the association be on good financial footing to be able to afford to assist us with a wide range of programs and things we try to do for the public.
A new addition to this years festival will be a stickball demonstration by members of the Mississippi band of Choctaw. Last year, a Cherokee group was on hand to show off stickball, but the Choctaw group will show a game with a different set of rules and techniques.
We found a Choctaw group that wont just play stickball -- part of their mission, too, is to educate people about the game, David said.
The morning and afternoon programs will mirror one another so there is more than one chance to see a particular group.
People can come any time and still catch the majority of the various programs, David said.
Ocmulgee Indian Celebration
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 21-22
Where: Ocmulgee National Monument, 1207 Emery Highway
Cost: $6 adults; $3 children ages 6-12 and active duty military; free for children under 6