OKMULGEE, Okla. – Community members, tribal citizens, and regular attendees from near and far came to one of the biggest celebrations hosted by the Mvskoke people known as festival. The 47th Annual Muscogee Nation Festival was held during the weekend of June 22-25.
MCN Principal Chief David Hill said the Festival has expanded this year, providing expansion in amusement, sporting events, and extra cooling areas.
“We are just trying to make it enjoyable for all the citizens,” Chief Hill said. “That’s the main thing, making sure they have a lot of fun.”
After meeting “Yellowstone” series’ Mo Brings Plenty last year, Chief Hill called him to invite him out to this years’ festival. Not only did he accept the invitation, he also brought his nephew, Cole Brings Plenty who is featured in the series, “1923”.
According to Chief Hill, Mo Brings Plenty enjoyed himself, especially at the rodeo.
For MCN Second Chief Del Beaver, it’s all about community and family.
“We just want to show them what we’re about,” Beaver said.
Fellowship and Culture
MCN National Council Representative Nelson Harjo Sr.’s favorite part of festival is the ability to sit and visit with friends he has not seen in a long time.
“Majority of the people here are all our people, and they’re still having fun and that’s my favorite part,” Rep. Harjo said.
Gary and Carolyn King are at-large citizens living in Kansas who travel annually for the festival.
Raised in Okemah, Gary enjoys the reconnection to the culture. He loves the social stomp dance. At 70 years old he is not able to dance as much anymore.
Even Carolyn, raised in Oklahoma as well, does her best to stay connected by learning the language and attending the social Stomp Dance with Gary.
“There’s a lot of young folks that have taken our places and they do a good job,” Carloyn said. “There’s so many shell shakers, it’s amazing to see.”
“When we see it in our own kids and grandkids, it makes us feel a lot better,” Gary said.
The events started early in the month with the MCN Scholarship Pageant on June 3 and ended with a day of fair fun on June 25.
For the first time in the pageant’s history, the ceremony was held in the southern region of the reservation at Thlopthlocco Tribal Town’s venue, the Crystal Theatre in Okemah, Okla.
After a list of competitive events, Chenoa Barnett won the Miss Muscogee Nation title and Georgia Harjo was crowned as Jr. Miss, making her the second at-large citizen to hold a Miss title.
Over the next two weeks, the Nation prepared for the tournament festivities taking place June 16-18.
Unfortunately, overcast skies and occasional rain caused some events to postpone or reschedule, however each event was still able to proceed.
Highlight events included the Indian Nationals Finals Rodeo on Friday and Saturday at the Bob Arrington Arena, and the slowpitch softball tournaments, each concluding Sunday.
Saturday’s tournaments started early with the tennis tournament, volleyball, horseshoes, three-on-three basketball for adults, blow darts for the youth, bow shooting, and tomahawk throwing. The rodeo and softball tournaments continued as well.
Tania Bear (Mvskoke/Seminole) works for the MCN Department of Interior Affairs as Secretary Jesse Allen’s Executive Assistant. She played in a team during the basketball tournament where they took home the gold in the 35 and older division.
“I live here in Okmulgee so it’s convenient, we always get a team together,” Bear said. “It’s a well-put together tournament.”
For Bear, the festival’s activities are a family affair as they each participate in a sporting event and watch one another for support.
“We have to be a role model for the young ones,” Bear said.
The tennis and slow-pitch tournaments concluded on Sunday. Cornhole was held as the last event for the first weekend of tournaments.
Events were simultaneously hosted throughout the day. The results of the tournaments available at the time this article was published are on page seven of the July 15 edition for those who may have missed it.
The Monday after the first weekend, tribal departments were shuffling to prepare for the stacked main weekend that started on Thursday with the Living Legends Ceremony, held at Faith Church in Glenpool.
Later in the evening, visitors started traveling to the Mvskoke capital to join in the social Stomp Dance at the Claude Cox Omniplex.
The first dance was led by Chief Hill and his mother, making it a memorable highlight of the evening.
The evening also held a fun fair that included carnival rides, funnel cakes, lemonades, and served a free dinner of traditional foods. “At every dance, the Mvskoke people eat” is a common sentiment said by many tribal citizens.
As the sun rose Friday morning, the junior olympics kicked off at Harmon Stadium, the Okmulgee High School football field. The Elderly Nutrition department was up by 8 a.m., ready for the Senior Games.
While these activities reached a lunch break, the golf tournament teed off at the Fountainhead Creek Golf Course in Checotah.
Native American vendors lined up the art fair at the Claude Cox Omniplex pavilion with rows of tables containing for-sale, handmade items.
Carrying on into Friday morning, vendors set up their stations again as guests slowly trickled in through the morning and throughout the day as the carnival continued to spin kids around and around on various rides like the Twist-a-whirl and Alligator rollercoaster, not to mention the fun slide.
The evening held the Hannah Phillips Bull Bash Bull Riding at the Bob Arrington Arena. It celebrated Phillips’ birthday as she used her bull stock business to provide the rodeo with stock. Fast-pitch softball tournaments started in the late evening along with the live entertainment from country singers Cam and Pat Green.
Runners lined up Saturday morning to run a 5K around the complex. Fast-pitch tournaments and youth three-on-three basketball started after the race, while festival parade participants were getting ready for a stroll down Main Street in Downtown Okmulgee.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation employees, tribal leaders, and citizens came out in dozens of colorful floats and cars to wave at festival parade attendees along the streets. Many floats tossed out candy for children.
After the parade, Chief Hill and Second Chief Beaver headed to the Safe Space Building for a meet and greet with citizens and visitors.
The day continued with vendors, resource booths, the fun fair, arts and crafts, along with the ongoing tournaments.
Gospel and hymn singing started in the late afternoon in the Mvskoke Dome and went on into the evening. It featured Winnie Cooper singing praise.
The Living Legends Softball Reunion was held at the Safe Space Building where alumni were served a meal and had fellowship together.
The bull riding event continued in the evening and concluded.
The Last Night
Saturday’s entertainment included a line up consisting of Native American performances. Performers competed in a battle of the bands event during the employee appreciation day event in May.
A vote was taken to determine the Saturday night entertainment. The winners included Lance Gouge and the 99 South Band. The night’s entertainment concluded with the Mvskoke Fashion Show.
Fireworks were lit each evening around 11 p.m. It indicated the end of events for the day and celebrated the festival itself.
The fast-pitch finals were held on the following Sunday, which concluded all competitive events.
New to the festival list of events for the weekend was the Fourth Sunday on the Reservation. It featured Goldwing Express at the Dome.
Mvskoke Media posted pictures throughout the festival on the Mvskoke Media Facebook page. The Muscogee Nation Festival Facebook page also features pictures and a survey asking for the feedback of guests and participants.