PONCA CITY — T.L. Walker can finally let the good news out: The Standing Bear Pow Wow is one of the top events in North America. The powwow, which will begin its 14th year Friday, was named one of the top 100 events by the American Bus Association. Although Walker, who is the executive director at the Standing Bear Native American Memorial Park in Ponca City, didn't need a list to tell her that, it doesn't hurt to have the accolade. "I've been sworn to secrecy for months,” she said Wednesday. "We could not be more excited about it.” Officials with the state Tourism and Recreation Department asked Walker to submit a nomination for the powwow. She didn't think the nomination had a prayer and was overwhelmed when told it made the list. The list is made so travelers can plan their calendar a year in advance. Though the event was placed on the 2008 list, this year's edition starts Friday. The top motor coach and group travel companies consult the association when planning where they will book travel, said Lindsay Vidrine, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. A panel of travel professionals from the United States and Canada select the events. The Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City was also in the top 100 for 2008. The yearlong Oklahoma Centennial celebration was recognized as the top event in the United States for 2007.
‘An incredible event'What's unique about the Standing Bear Pow Wow, said T.L. Walker, is that it's the only event where all six Ponca City area tribes (Kaw, Osage, Otoe-Missouria, Pawnee, Ponca and Tonkawa) come together. She said the Standing Bear Native American Memorial Park is fortunate to be surrounded by other attractions, including oil barons' homes and museums. "There are just so many elements to this that I think that's what made this nomination possible,” she said. "It's an incredible event.” The powwow is surrounded by shade trees in a beautiful Oklahoma autumn background, she said. The event is also true to tribal traditions, she said. It includes gourd dancing and a princess competition. About 150 tribal representatives and community volunteers staff the event, which is free and open to the public. Between 3,000 to 6,000 people are expected this year, Walker said. If you go: This year's event starts at 6 p.m. Friday and will end about 11 p.m. Saturday at the intersections of U.S. 60, U.S. 77 and U.S. 177. For more information, call (580) 762-1514.