While American Indian princesses clambered aboard sports cars, riders mounted their paint horses, and tribal chiefs donned their traditional finery, occasional horn blasts, flute trills and snare riffs sounded Friday morning from the parking lot of the Peacock Restaurant.
Fresh off a bus from Window Rock, Ariz., the Navajo Nation Band was preparing to join the Red Earth Festival parade.
“It's a huge event. One reason why we agreed to come on out here is to get more exposure, and we have some Navajos who do reside out in this area, (and it's) just to give them that proud, warm feeling,” director Darwyn D. Jackson said.
The parade annually kicks off the Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival in downtown. Featuring a dance competition, art market, youth activities, cultural cuisine and more, the 26th annual festival continues Saturday and Sunday at the Cox Convention Center.
As the long line of floats, vehicles and steeds started circling the Myriad Botanical Gardens Friday morning, Jackson blew out a series of sharp whistles, signaling the band to play a lively marching tune and begin its jaunty procession through downtown Oklahoma City.
About 50 representatives of the 80- to 100-member band made the trek to Oklahoma, including a drum majorette, baton twirler, color guard, flag corps and an array of musicians. Miss Navajo Nation Crystalyne Gayle Curley marched with them in the parade.
On Friday afternoon, the band, which brings together Navajos from Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, performed a free concert in the Myriad Gardens.
While they play familiar marching music, their uniforms consist of traditional Navajo regalia: silver and turquoise belts, dark blue velveteen tops, white tiered skirts for the women and fitted white pants and medicine bags for the men, said drum majorette Laura Begay.
“We're ambassadors of the Navajo Nation,” said Begay, who has been part of the multigenerational band for more than 30 years. “This is the first time in all the years I've been with the band that I think that we've gone this far out to the east of the reservation.”
The Navajo Nation Band last played in Oklahoma in the 1960s, Jackson said.
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Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival
When: 10 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday.
Where: Cox Convention Center.
Grand entries: Noon and 7 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.
Information: 427-5228 or www.red