Gather Around the Fire: The Cherokee Bonfire Storytelling Series | Cherokee, NC

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Gather Around the Fire: The Cherokee Bonfire Storytelling Series

Dates: Fridays and Saturdays, June 29th - October 1st

Time: 7 to 9 pm

Location: Oconaluftee Island Park, Cherokee, NC 28719

Cost: Free

Every Friday and Saturday evening in Cherokee, crowds gather around 7 pm at the Oconaluftee Island Park to sit beside a roaring fire and listen to regional storytellers and performers share traditional Cherokee tales, myths, and history, passed down through the ages.

Sometimes there is also traditional Cherokee dance and music. No two weekend nights are the same. Nearby is the soothing sound of water, as the Oconaluftee river gently flows by.

As the bonfire is lit, hundreds gather on benches around it. Fire is a sacred symbol to the Cherokee people, and when the storyteller takes their place in front of it, on a square, concrete pad, a hush falls over the crowd.

It is time for the show to begin.

Stories range from animal stories to creation myths; light hearted stories, to suspenseful campfire-type stories, but they're all distinctly Cherokee. Performers wear 17th century clothing and welcome audience participation and interaction.

"You don't hear the same stories over and over," says Daniel Tramper, who has been organizing the Cherokee Bonfire since the very beginning. "We mix it up, so it's always something different."

On a given night, John John may tell the story of the first flute, and play his flute for the crowd. Or Lloyd Arneach might captivate the audience with a Cherokee legend. Sonny Ledford, another crowd favorite, can speak at length about Cherokee history and the ancient ways of life. Last Bear Wilnoty and his wife, Kota, sometimes perform together, telling Cherokee stories and sharing The Friendship Dance with those who have gathered around.

"At the Cherokee Bonfire, you can get a lot more culture and education about Cherokee," says Daniel Tramper.  "You can learn about the way we live now, and the way we used to live. It gives more insight into Cherokee, and Cherokee culture, and how great it is."

After the story there is an intermission, and marshmallows for roasting over the fire.

As the storyteller ends their performance for the night, the sun sets in brilliant colors over the mountains in Cherokee, and another show draws to a close.

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