A Parade of Color: Cherokee’s 40th Annual Powwow, 4th of July Weekend | Cherokee, NC

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A Parade of Color: Cherokee’s 40th Annual Powwow, 4th of July Weekend

At Cherokee's 40th Annual Powwow, July 3rd through July 5th, you can expect a lot of excitement, tradition, and camaraderie, with spectacular dance performances, traditional arts and crafts, live music, special events, tribal foods, and more.

Organizer Daniel Tramper of Deer Clan Productions says that for many, going to the Cherokee Powwow is like coming home. Thousands of people travel from all over the country, and even the world, to attend the Cherokee Powwow, which is one of the biggest on the East Coast, and they bring their families with them, returning year after year.

Dance competitions to live music are central to the powwow, with hundreds of world championship dancers competing for over $60,000 in prize money. Dancers wear colorful tribal dress with elaborate handiwork, some handed down through the generations, or made by family members; others featuring more contemporary designs made by independent designers.

In the Grand Entry, which Tramper describes as a "parade of colors," all the dancers come into the arena together, and dance for points. As many as 500 dancers may partake, seeking attention from the judges and putting on a fabulous display. Don't miss the Grand Entry march on Friday at 7 pm, Saturday at 1 and 7 pm and Sunday at 1 pm.

One of the most popular, and exciting dance competitions to watch is the Men's Fancy and Women's Fancy.

"These dancers are the athletes of the powwow," says Tramper. "The dances are fast and furious. It's spectacular."

Other styles of dance include Traditional, Fancy Shawl, Grass, Two Step, Jingle, and the Daniel French Memorial dance competitions. There are also many other categories of competition including hand drum, special contests, as well as a Tiny Tots dance events featuring children 2 to 6.

Tramper, who has been dancing since he was two and is a nationally ranked hoop dancer, says that for the young dancers, it's not about the competition.

"We want our younger ones to come out and learn the traditions," he said. "We're not always going to be here and we need our traditions to live on. In the Indian way, you always give back and share, and that's what you'll find at the powwow."

In Tramper’s case, he, his wife, son, and grandson all dance.

"You travel with your family and you make friends as you go along. We all say 'powwow family' and even though we compete, we take care of each other. We're one big family."

This year, as a special addition to the festivities, there will be a Turkey Warrior contest featuring seven regional dancers that are cultural ambassadors for their tribes. The warrior dancers will dress in time period clothing from the 1700s to the 1800s and perform before the fireworks display on Saturday night, July 4th.

"In my opinion, we have the best fireworks display in Western North Carolina," says Tramper. "The fireworks go out over the powwow, and you won't see anything else like it."

To experience the rich heritage, culture, and awesome community at the powwow, check out the full schedule of powwow events. Cost is $12 daily or just $10 with a Food Lion MVP card.

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