CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Once each summer for the past 27 years, Cherokees and those who admire their culture have gathered at Red Clay State Historical Park for a weekend festival.
The 28th annual Cherokee Days of Recognition is coming Aug. 7-8.
It's not like recognizing someone with an award for a job well done, explains Alva Crowe, one of the event organizers. It's about recognizing a great American culture that survived the challenges of history.
But the weekend is not just a historical re-enactment either, said Frank Villegas, another organizer. It recognizes Cherokee art, crafts and culture's contemporary take on traditions, too.
"Part of the mission of the park is to honor the Cherokee people," Villegas said. "That's where you get Cherokee Days of Recognition. It's a place to come to do traditional Cherokee dances, demonstrate the culture and recognize the people. That is one of the reasons the park exists."
Both men, along with park ranger Erin Medley and Cleveland resident Jim Corn, help raise money each year for Friends of Red Clay. Most state parks have a nonprofit friends group that helps preserve their chosen park and schedules events.
Crowe has been coming to Red Clay since he was a child, years before it was a state park.
"In the early '50s, Indian people started coming out," he said. "I say Indian people because it was not only Cherokee. It was all in this section, just recognizing all who were here.
IF YOU GO
* What: Cherokee Days of Recognition
* Where: Red Clay State Historical Park south of Cleveland
* When: Aug. 7-8, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
* Cost: Free but a $5 parking donation suggested.
* Events: Artists, musicians, dancers, food, storytelling, blowgun tournament, stickball demonstration
"We came here to show how the Cherokees in the western part of North Carolina are still surviving. We came here to show our culture, our heritage and to teach our arts and crafts," Crowe said.
The weekend this year includes several events that have become so popular they are standard for the festival. The blowgun competition is open to everyone in different age groups. Participants must supply their own river cane blowgun, but darts are available for sale.
Storytelling takes place outdoors in an amphitheater and includes tales for all ages.
Music includes a well-known Cherokee flutist and a children's gospel choir mixing contemporary and traditional music.
The vendors are mostly from North Carolina's Eastern Band of Cherokees because Tallequah in Oklahoma, home of the Western Band, is too far for some to travel.
There will be a stickball game, too, a demonstration game by a Wolftown, N.C., team. An announcer will explain what's happening on the field.
It is the park's biggest event of the year, Medley said, and several thousand people are expected to come and go during the two days.