Over the past 27 years, the Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival has grown into a grand homecoming for American Indian dancers, artists, enthusiasts and more.
Red Earth 2013 is set for Friday through Sunday at the Cox Convention Center, and this year's event is offering fans, friends and family members who gather for the festivities more chances to celebrate through dance.
“All day Friday, instead of competition dancing, we will have exhibition and social dancing, so that gives the audience more of an opportunity to come down and dance on the arena floor,” said Red Earth Deputy Director Eric Oesch.
“They have friendships dances, so they can invite people to come down onto the floor and it's kind of like line dancing ... and it'll be real audience-friendly.”
In addition, several tribes will perform exhibitions, demonstrating gourd and stomp dancing, and a special dance honoring military veterans is planned for Friday evening. The dance competitions are set for Saturday and Sunday, with seniors and tiny tots allowed to contend for free.
“You can't continue with the same thing you've done for 25 years. You gotta tweak,” Oesch said. “One of the things that we had been hearing was that so many dancers couldn't come on Fridays anymore because they have full-time jobs. So we thought, ‘How do we remedy that?' ... And we think we will get more dancers who don't care about competing. I think it will open up a whole new audience.”
Leslie Blair, president-elect of the Red Earth board of directors, believes that festivalgoers will appreciate the chance to get a different view of the colorfully clad dancers.
“To see the dancers up close and see them come around you is such a unique experience. It's fascinating,” Blair said. “To see all the details ... on what they wear when they dance, they're artwork in and of themselves.”
In keeping with Red Earth tradition, the dance components of the festival will begin with the pomp and pageantry of grand entries at noon Friday, Saturday and Sunday and 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The three-day event will kick off at 10 a.m. Friday with the majestic Red Earth Festival Parade featuring hundreds of participants in authentic tribal regalia, drum groups, horsemen, floats, bands and more.
“We've just been getting deluged with entries,” Oesch said. “The parade route circles the Myriad Gardens this year, like it did last year, and I just love that venue. ... It's shady and beautiful.”