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Red Earth Festival dances into new home at Remington Park

The 28th Annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival continues Saturday at the racetrack and casino, where the venerable event is showcasing American Indian art, dance competitions, live music and more.
by Brandy McDonnell Modified: June 6, 2014 at 10:32 pm •  Published: June 6, 2014

Growing up in Stroud, R.G. Harris’ forefathers weren’t his only inspiration as he trained as a fancy dancer.

The King of Pop also provided motivation for the Kiowa youngster.

“I used to practice in the garage ... and there were no doors. I (had) seen Michael Jackson one day dancing in a video. I thought, ‘I could do that,’ so that’s what I would do: I would put a Michael Jackson tape on, and I would practice fancy dancing to that music. ’Cause it had the beat, you know. So these people would drive by at nighttime, and they’d see me jumping around, and they thought I was crazy,” said Harris, master of ceremonies for the Red Earth Festival dance competition.

“Sometimes it’s good to be different.”

Harris, a retired fancy dancer and Anadarko resident, encouraged hundreds of festivalgoers to embrace change as they gathered Friday for the first grand entry of dancers at the 28th Annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival.

There was plenty of change to the venerable festival — including a shift in venue to Remington Park and an overhaul of the dancing competition to showcase two popular categories — as well as to the late-spring weather, which started out stormy and eventually morphed to sunny and steamy.

Artistic evolution

While the festival moved this year out of its longtime home at the Cox Convention Center, it was scheduled to keep one downtown tradition: the Red Earth Parade. But heavy rains, flooded streets and lightning prompted organizers to cancel the Friday morning procession.

“In 28 years, it’s the first time we’ve ever actually had to cancel the parade,” said Red Earth Deputy Director Eric Oesch, standing in the juried art market inside Remington Park. “(We’re) disappointed, but it is what it is. And this place is full, and we just opened.”

Echota Cherokee artist Anita Caldwell Jackson already was reaping the rewards of her own openness to change: a first-place ribbon in the diversified arts category for “The Birth of Corn,” the form of a pregnant woman sculpted out of leather and adorned with a painting of a maiden harvesting ready ears from green stalks.

“I started doing leatherwork in July. I haven’t been doing it a year yet, so everything I’ve done so far, it’s been trial and error and figuring it out. I’ve always wanted to do sculpture ... but I didn’t have the right medium until I found leather,” said the longtime painter and retired art teacher, as festivalgoers gathered around her first-floor booth to admire her mixed-media paintings and unusual cowhide sculptures.

“The reward is to come to the show and meet the people and talk to the people. If they don’t like your stuff, they usually don’t tell you. But if they like it, they’ll tell you.”

The McAlester resident, who has been exhibiting at Red Earth since the late 1990s, said she was already seeing good crowds at the new venue.

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by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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If you go

The 28th Annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival features

dance competition, art market, food booths, children’s activities, live music.

•When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

•Where: Remington Park race track and casino, 1 Remington Place.



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