By Paul Burdziakowski
For Hometown News
The South Daytona Parks & Recreation Department will host the sixth annual Native American Earth Festival on Saturday, April 13, and Sunday, April 14, at Reed Canal Park, starting at 10 a.m. both days.
The festival, which has a low admission fee, will provide fun, food and entertainment for the entire family. Whether you are a man, woman, child or senior citizen, there is something of interest for everyone.
Through advertising and word of mouth, the Native American Earth Festival has been growing in popularity since it first started. According to Ivy Evans, festival co-coordinator, there have been close to 5,000 people in attendance each of the last two years.
First time guest this year, Laura Alcorne, should spark interest for women of all ages. Ms. Alcorne is a Blackfoot Indian herbalist who will direct a woods walk where she will point out and talk about native plants that are edible and useful for medicine.
The East Meets West Show is one of the biggest attractions of the day. It is a show that teaches the difference between the many different native tribes. Close to 40 tribes from around the nation will be represented. There will even be an Algonquian tribe member in attendance from Canada. The East Meets West Show is a popular program for men as it features a segment on the history of weapons down from the ages. The show closes with a musket firing demonstration. Men of all ages can practice their weapon skills throughout the day at the tomahawk throwing and blow gun shooting booths.
Senior citizens should enjoy the segment of the East Meets West Show, which honors military veterans and later provides tribal dancing, drumming, singing and storytelling.
"Hearing the drumming and chanting of the Native Americans is a very unique experience that brings an excitement in the air and really moves your spirit," Ms. Evans said. "You have to be there to experience this rare cultural Native American pastime."
The Paw Paw Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and The Full Moon Natives Nursery will be in attendance with informational booths, plant sales and educational programs on landscaping and gardening.
Children will have an opportunity to make pottery and take it home for free. They also will be able take part in gem mining, face painting, arts and crafts, and candy dancing with plenty of free candy to take home. Numerous wildlife exhibits and a petting zoo will be on site with such critters as bald eagles, screech owls, exotic snakes and giant spiders.
Back in 2004, three devastating hurricanes came through the area and caused a great deal of damage to several parks, including Reed Canal Park. It took a year for crews to repair the damage and clean up the debris. In 2005 the City of South Daytona decided to rededicate and reopen the park in a special way by tying it in with the annual Earth Day celebrations that are held worldwide.
"Tying it in with Earth Day was a great concept, but we wanted to add Native American culture because they are the ultimate stewards of the earth and its natural resources," Ms. Evans said.
In 2008 with the help of Jim Sawgrass, a local Native American, the event increased in scale by incorporating Native American culture and influence. Mr. Sawgrass is a descendent of the Muskogee People, who were commonly referred to as the Creeks by early settlers living in the Southeast United States. Since 2008, Mr. Sawgrass has become the other co-coordinator of the Native American Earth Festival.
Reed Canal Park has evolved through nature and community development. It is the hope of Ms. Evans and Mr. Sawgrass that people's thoughts about the earth will evolve in a positive light as well.
"Earth day shouldn't be once a year, but every day," Mr. Sawgrass said. "People should be more mindful of the natural resources we have left so that our children will still be able to see some of the great things left in the wild which are becoming rarer these days."