Here in Albany, most folks probably realize that there are two incarnations of the Chehaw Indian Festival. The old one was huge, with Native Americans dancing for prizes and drawing them from all across the country. Cars would be backed up forever it would seem with people trying to get into the park.
The newer incarnation seems more geared towards education, and has been more modest in its scope. In fact, fewer folks usually come out for the festival.
Not any more.
I used to volunteer with the old incarnation of the festival. I don’t now primarily because my schedule is so up in the air. However, I did get to spend a good bit of time out there Saturday. It was there that I learned that cars were backed up to the Homerun Foods on Philema Road, all trying to get back into the park.
For those who haven’t gone to this incarnation of the festival, you have missed out. Sure, there aren’t a thousand dancers moving around the ring, but instead there is a different focus. The demonstrators area is a hub of activity. A blacksmith, a flint napper, a basket maker, an expert in useful and edible plants, a potter, a weaver all using skills and knowledge available to the Indians of this area show how the natives dealt with the world around them. A portrayal of Gen. James Oglethorpe and a Revolutionary war solider show the world that was changing around them.
Yes, the old festival was bigger, but is bigger always better?
This incarnation gave me to opportunity to learn how to fire a pot with a camp fire. It gave me the chance to learn how to brain tan a deer hide. I got to see the inside of a wigwam and see how they were made.
Now, more and more people are catching on to how the Chehaw Indian Festival is a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday with the family. I suspect this past Sunday found that folks were pretty scarce, but that was due to the weather.
It seems that the Chehaw Indian Festival is back. Me? I couldn’t be happier. These are the kinds of events Albany needs and needs to promote throughout the state. These are the kind of events that gives us a rich cultural tapestry that shows what this community can offer.
Personally, I’m glad to see it. In fact, I can’t wait until next year.