When the 27th Annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival is held at the Cox Convention Center June 7-9 in downtown Oklahoma City, more than 1,200 American Indian artists and dancers from throughout North America will gather to celebrate the richness and diversity of their heritage with the world. For three exciting days Oklahoma City will be at the center of Native American art and culture in America.
“You are going to the best Native American performing arts show in the world, the best dancing in the world, great food, family entertainment, and it is inexpensive,” said Eric Oesch, deputy director of communications of Red Earth, Inc., a nonprofit organization promoting Native arts and culture.
Through the years Red Earth has matured into one of the most respected visual and performing arts event of its type – setting the standard for many of today’s Indian art shows held throughout the U.S. At Red Earth, guests can sample the work of some of the country’s most celebrated Native artists, with opportunities to purchase contemporary and traditional examples of beadwork, basketry, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, paintings, graphics and cultural attire during the juried art show and market.
The dance competition and demonstrations at Red Earth are one of the rare occasions when dancers from America’s Northern and Southern tribes can be seen together in one venue. Red Earth dancers represent the elite of Native American dance, some of the most gifted and accomplished in the world. The masters, each in their own distinctive tribal dress, exhibit their originality and skills in one of the most prestigious of all Native dance competitions.
A grand parade, unlike any other parade in the world, opens the Red Earth Festival on Friday morning, June 7. The streets of downtown Oklahoma City will vibrate in Native American tribal spirit as representatives of more than 100 tribes, in full tribal regalia, make the Red Earth Parade one of America’s most unique. The Red Earth Art Market also opens Friday, at 11 a.m., and dance demonstrations and competitions are held throughout the weekend inside the Cox Convention Center Arena.
Last year, Oesch said that about 100 media outlets, including foreign press, came to witness the festival. He said this coincides with their observation that there is a growing presence of tourists from Europe, Australia and Japan.
“They are fascinated with Native cultures. The festival is a venue where people share their culture to the world,” said Oesch, who noted that since the event is not affiliated with any one tribe, different tribal cultures are showcased in the three-day event.
“Twenty-seven years ago, the festival was organized to provide an outlet for artists to sell art to the public,” said Oesch, adding that Natives previously had to go to Phoenix, Albuquerque and Santa Fe to get an audience.
Dance competitions were a natural addition and attraction. Oesch expects from 400 to 800 dancers to participate in four age categories, from tiny tots to seniors, ages 60 and up.
Asked how they compete with other festivals, some larger, Oesch said, “We have been doing this for 27 years. A lot of those events have patterned themselves after us. We are comfortable with what we are.”
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