Despite the damages from Tropical Storm Irma, the 26th annual Ocmulgee Indian Celebration is still taking place this weekend, due to the hard work by the staff at the Ocmulgee National Monument.
Much of the monument’s grounds remain closed, and the school trip for children on Friday was canceled because of damages from Tropical Storm Irma. However, the festival will go on, and for the first time Muscogee Nation Principal Chief James Floyd will be there.
Superintendent Jim David said that with the small staff at the monument there was no way to get both the event area and the parking area cleared before the festival.
“It takes a lot to set this event up, even without the hurricane,” David said.
His choice was to either close the festival or to have only off-site parking, and David did not want to cancel the entire festival when there was an alternative.
Because of this, there will be no on-site parking for the event. Instead, parking will be available at the Macon-Bibb County Health Department at 171 Emery Highway.
There are nearly 800 parking spaces in the lot, and there will be four shuttles running constantly between the parking lot and the monument, where the festival is taking place.
The staff has made a priority out of clearing out the event area since Tuesday, and the only aspect of the festival that will be affected is the parking.
Shuttles will drop attendees off at the gate to the monument, where they will pay and enter the event. The price of admission is $6 for adults, $3 for military and children ages 6-12, and no charge for children ages 5 and younger.
The Muscogee Nation Chief Floyd, has declared September 16 as “Ocmulgee National Monument Day” for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in an official proclamation. This will be the first year he has attended the event.
“Every year we invite the chief to come,” David said. “We are very pleased Chief Floyd accepted our invitation.”
Ocmulgee is important to the Muscogee people because it is where their nation was founded, he said.
The events of the festival will be taking place in the areas surrounding the visitor’s center. This area, as well as the path up to the Earth Lodge, will be open to the public, but the rest of the monument is closed due to damages from Irma.
“It sounded like a war here with trees popping and snapping,” when the storm came through, David said, relaying a comment from ranger Kevin Wyrick who lives on the site.
There are many hazardous hanging trees and limbs over and around the paths throughout the grounds as well as along the main road leading to the monument, David said. He said he hopes the road will be open again next week, and the paths will be cleared as soon as they can get to them.
“There are close to 80 trees down,” he said. “It’ll probably be a few weeks, maybe even a month,” before everything is cleared out and open to the public again.