Even on the third-floor clubhouse level, Yukon painter Brenda Kennedy Grummer was seeing growing crowds perusing the art booths. The Citizen Potawatomi artist has participated in Red Earth off and on since the late 1980s and was pleased with the new venue.
“I think we’ll get the kinks out of everything this year, and we love it out here at Remington Park. The Chickasaws have been overly generous to us,” she said, referring to Global Gaming Solutions, the Chickasaw Nation subsidiary that owns the racetrack.
“I’m a fan of Red Earth and I like to participate in a festival that we have right here in Oklahoma City.”
The storm clouds rolled out Friday morning, and by the time the first grand entry started just after noon, the sun was shining off the intricate beadwork, colorful fabrics and fluttering feathers on the dancers’ regalia. Instead of filing into the Cox Convention Center Arena, the dancers, tribal princesses and dignitaries marched from the Remington Park track, along the tunnel generally used by thoroughbreds and quarter horses and into the saddling paddock, where a stage had been erected for the dance competition.
While the children’s categories still were open to different styles of American Indian dance, Red Earth this year narrowed its teen and adult dance divisions to just two categories: the men’s fancy dance and women’s fancy-shawl dance. The festival will crown its first Red Earth National Champion in the two categories Saturday, the final day of this year’s event.
“We’ve doubled our prize money for those categories ... and those are two of the most athletic and colorful dances,” Oesch said, noting that festivalgoers also could watch exhibitions of hoop dancing and Choctaw traditional dances Friday. “There were some people that weren’t happy, but what worked for us in the ’90s doesn’t necessarily work in the 2000s.”
For the “shawling sisters” — Amber Cleveland of Wisconsin Dells, Wisc.; Taylor Spoonhunter, who lives in Kansas City, Kan., but hails from South Dakota; and Kirsten Goodwill, who just moved to Lawrence, Kan., from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada — the boost in prize money and focus on their fancy shawl dance style brought them back to Red Earth for the first time since they were children.
“We just decided to come check it out,” Spoonhunter said.
“It’s a lot different,” Cleveland added. “But I like the changes so far.”
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.