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EXPLORE AMERICA: Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival

With the largest per-capita Native American population of any state, Oklahoma is an appropriate venue for one of the premier Indian festivals in the nation—the Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival. For three days each June, Oklahoma City hosts nearly 1,200 American Indian artists and dancers. The event begins with a grand parade through downtown that includes participants from more than 100 tribes, many dressed in elaborate and colorful traditional clothing. Throughout the festival, the juried Red Earth Art Market showcases traditional and contemporary art forms including beadwork, basketry, jewelry, sculpture, and pottery. The festival’s dance competitions, which draw the nation’s top performers, are equally stellar. Other attractions include hands-on children’s activities, storytelling, food booths, a 5K run, and musical performances. While you’re at the festival, tour the Red Earth Museum, whose exhibits celebrate the arts and cultures of Native America.

The festival’s dance competitions are a riot of color, movement, and pageantry. Two crowd favorites: the men’s fancy dance and the southern buckskin. The former, a highly athletic competition, features a great deal of spinning and jumping, all done by dancers wearing ornate costumes with large bustles of feathers at their backs and heads. The southern buckskin, a women’s dance, is much more regal and elegant. The dancers’ beaded dresses can weigh as much as 70 pounds, with long fringes that nearly touch the ground. As the women move to the beat of the drum, the fringes sway in rhythm to their movements.

The Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival will be held on June 3, 4, & 5, 2011, at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Telephone (405) 427-5228. http://www.redearth.org/homepage/

Photo credit: ©Red Earth, Inc.

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