The good people of the American Festivals Project have traveled around the country searching for “America’s small, hidden and bizarre festivals.” Their time at the Oglala Lakota Nation pow wow on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota could be considered part of their search for the “hidden” festival, or perhaps “small,” as it’s not a massive event, but it certainly couldn’t be called uninspiring. Their portraits are stunning, thanks to the fact that two men who started the project, Ross McDermott and Andrew Owen, are both photographers. Their loving series of photos and thoughts on their time at Pine Ridge showcase two people who really, really like their job.
And why shouldn’t they? Thanks to their photo acumen, and curiosity, they received a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant, partially funding their trips around the country to find the beautiful, the beguiling, and the bizarre. Their trip to Pine Ridge would be the beautiful, the Okie Noodling Tournament in Pauls Valley, Okla. (ever try pulling massive catfish out of their holes with your bare hands?) the beguiling, and, okay, bizarre, too, and the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, Texas (spoiler alert, they round up thousands and thousands of rattlesnakes) maybe just insane.
The key is the guys respect all the places they go to and the people they meet, and they take great photos to boot. Whether they’re in western Utah watching people try to break the land speed record on the Bonneville salt flats, or in Banner Elk, N.C., to attend the Woolly Worm Festival, where thousands of contestants race their fuzzy caterpillars, they’re as happy and content as kids in a candy store that also has toys.
We reached out to them to say “hey, nice job!” and found out that for now, the Festival Project is on hold. But they’ve got plenty of photos and videos on their site and on the Nat Geo to sift through until, hopefully, they get back out there.