Monday, September 3, 2012

Labour Day Weekend ...

Labour Day Weekend, 2012 ... we are stopped in a small place called Big Cedar, in SE OK where our landlord suggested that we attend the big Choctaw Nation celebrations (PowWow). So on Saturday over we went, after our visiting friends from DFW left to return home. Driving over to Tuskahoma the traffic was sparse, not suggestive in any way of the immensity of what is supposed to be a HUGE celebration.

As we drew into Tuskahoma, we had no idea where to go but I was sure that there would be signage of some sort to follow. No sooner had I said this than we saw a roadway sign with large orange blinking lights (you know the kind, the "road repair up ahead" type of sign powered by solar panels) telling us to turn at the next right. Two cars ahead and three cars coming in the opposite direction all turn the same way. Yes, we must be in the right place.

As we slowly drive onto the the Choctaw Nation's land, all we can say is, "We are late!" There are cars parked everywhere. Parking signs say "Parking Lot 13, 14, 15, 10, etc" with attendants at every corner for all 4 ways. With temperatures soaring into the 100's, there are huge cooling units at each corner offering water and a cool-down to one and all. There is even a huge water tank that one can douse oneself in. We follow directions that are given before we can stick our head out the window to ask - we end up parked a very long ways from the festivities that can be seen as we drove through the area.

Loading up with water, sunscreen and bug repellent, we lock up the car and head for the road. Wow, along comes a golf cart and asks if we want a ride. Asking where we want to go, we say the exhibition hall. As the women drives, she gives a very pride-ful history of the Nation (3rd largest in the "nation")  and explains the workings of the festival. Everything is free except food and midway activities and rides, including the concert with Martina McBride and Ricky Scaggs that evening. Turns out, we were being transported but the "elder" car - a system set up to transport all the seniors. Everywhere we looked, they were there, whistling people around. There was also the usual tractor-pulled hay wagons with seats ferrying people from the parking lots to the main events.

Us, along with the anticipated 125,000 attendees jostled and weaved from ac place to ac place. (Temps over 100F) We saw the craft hall - lovely traditional Indian crafts, quilts, leatherwork, beadwork, furniture, paintings, textiles, and ... you pushed and shoved your way through the crowds to just see let alone buy anything. It was air-conditioned and many people were there for that reason alone. Imagine, if you will, coming in when the gates opened in the am to set up your chairs or claim your seats for the evening concert and sitting there all day in soaring temps. You too would head for the ac buildings as often as you could leave your space safely. Then to the midway looking for corn - not to be found but we did find deep-fried pickles, a favorite of mine, and an ac building with health exhibits and booths. The most amazing thing however, was the big sign in front listing the calorie count of fair foods and the entrance booth giving away free ice cold oranges and apples as a healthy alternative. AND the building has AC and we also run across a real neat bicycle tour for next May (2013). Could not sign up but they were taking names to send info to on how to sign up and when.

Then over to the museum, another ac building. It is a new, very modern but historic looking building  with a wonderful statue in front of it.   They are indeed a very proud nation, having overcome adversity and looking to the future while learning from the past, which is established within the museum.

As the heat beats down and I become hotter and hotter even with the wonderful interludes in the ac buildings, we finally have to leave. It was a wonderful experience, one that I wouldn't have missed for anything, if only from the historical part. The festival was very well organized and one that they enjoyed offering to the community at large. Can we find anything more to enhance this? Only time will tell.