Added musical performances, a fitness component, expanded food offerings and more partnerships with other events are among the changes for the 22nd annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival.
The premier American Indian art and dance festival opens today and continues through Saturday and Sunday at Cox Convention Center. This year, the festival will have more free outdoor activities to draw people into the event.
"We've always thought there were ways to expand the festival and to partner with other entities to add more activities, and ... we're looking forward to a really great festival overall,” said Red Earth Inc. Executive Director Connie Yellowman.
Through a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Red Earth is adding a lineup of free entertainment at the Myriad Botanical Gardens Water Stage. Nationally known American Indian musicians will perform on the outdoor stage from about 10:30 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. today.
The performers include Grammy Award-winning balladeer Joanne Shenandoah, violinist Arvel Bird and hip-hop group Brian Frejo and Culture Shock Camp.
Some of these performers will appear inside the Cox center on the festival's cultural performance stage, including musicians, storytellers and actors. Among the performers scheduled for the indoor stage are hip-hop group Ha'Stylez, storytelling troupe Mahenwahdose and actress Irene Bedard, the voice of Disney's "Pocahontas.”
"We've really been successful in growing that area, and different people draw different crowds,” Yellowman said. "But we've noticed that certain people are just drawn to that area and spend a lot of time there.”
Some of the performers will appear onstage in the children's area, which will feature live music and cultural activities such as Indian games, face painting and making corn husk dolls.
Another of the new outdoor offerings will be the Slammin' n' Jammin block party from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday on the south plaza of the Cox Convention Center on Reno Avenue, which will be closed to traffic between the Cox and Ford centers.
The block party will feature tennis and basketball games and activities, along with appearances by basketball Hall of Famer Lynette Woodard, former Women's Tennis Association pro Tara Snyder and University of Oklahoma hoopsters Ashley and Courtney Paris and Jenna Plumley.
Tennis and basketball games will be played along the 2.5-mile Red Earth parade route at 10:30 a.m. today to show that sports are healthy and fun activities.
The United States Tennis Association Missouri Valley, Red Earth, the Association of American Indian Physicians and Sports City University are offering the activities.