Tropical Storm Irma couldn’t break the spirits for the participants and thousands in attendance for the Ocmulgee Indian Celebration on Saturday.
The storm knocked over dozens of trees at Ocmulgee National Park, leaving park crews scrambling to get everything in order for the 26th annual celebration of Native American culture.
This year’s Ocmulgee Indian Celebration also brought out a special guest in Muscogee Nation Principal Chief James Floyd.
The celebration is a homecoming for the Muscogee nation, which was forced from the area by the U.S. government in the 1800s. Today, the Muscogees are the fourth largest Native American tribe with about 83,000 people.
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“This celebration has been done very respectfully, and we’re very impressed with the preparation they has gone into to have the celebration,” Floyd said. “This is our homeland for our people. It makes the homecoming even more warming because we can relate to everything that’s’ going on here.”
Floyd added, “We’ve learned that a lot of people have forgotten we’ve been here so we’re now coming back here so that we can educate and promote our own culture.”
The festival, which continues Sunday from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m., has a main stage showcasing various dances, music and sports unique to Native American culture. There are other activities such as a Cherokee hunting camp and fire making as well as vendors selling food and beverages.
The celebration usually draws about 17,000 people but Ocmulgee park Superintendent Jim David said he expected possibly half as many this year because of the move to off-site parking. People are taking free shuttles from the Macon-Bibb County Health Department at 171 Emery Hwy., because of Irma’s damage.
“My guys have just done a fantastic job working their rear ends off to get these grounds ready,” David said.
Ocmulgee Indian Celebration is an annual event for Valerie Harlow’s family. She said she was glad that Irma didn’t cause the event to be canceled.
“It’s always a great environment here and a lot of fun,” Harlow said.