BIG CYPRESS — Nestled in between Naples and Fort Lauderdale lies the opportunity for Native Americans throughout the country to unite. The Big Cypress Reservation’s Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum has received national recognition for its initiatives, and the 20th annual American Indian Arts Celebration is expected to only add to its well-known reputation.
The celebration, scheduled for Nov. 3 and 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, will feature some programming similar to previous years, including arts and crafts vendors from tribes throughout the country, but this year’s schedule will slightly vary. Unlike previous years when a main stage was used for highlighted performances and other forms of entertainment, this year will discontinue the main stage and focus on smaller demonstrations throughout the two-day event.
Carrie Dilley, visitor services and development manager at the museum, explained that in the past, visitors gravitated toward smaller programs, like alligator wrestling, rather than the main performances. By setting up the celebration as a smaller scale fair or festival, she believes it will be more of an inviting experience for guests.
Although the main stage will not be a part of this year’s festivities, visitors can still expect to have a packed schedule of entertainment. Vendors, many from other Native American cultures, will showcase traditional arts and crafts, such as beadwork, as well as prepare traditional foods, including swamp cabbage and fry bread. Wildlife shows and food trucks are also in the works.
“It’s a way to get different tribes and different cultures together and bring them to the forefront of the museum,” Dilley said. “It provides an interesting experience for the community in Big Cypress and other visitors.”
Last year, more than 1,400 people attended the celebration. This year, one guest, H. Dale Herring, will also attend the event for a special signing for his new book, “Bowlegs Town,” a fictional novel about a young Seminole Chief, Billy Bowlegs, who led the Seminoles during the Second and Third Seminole Wars. Herring will have a booth at the event to sell and sign books Nov. 4.
“It’s a great opportunity for cultural exchange. Nothing happens in a vacuum and I think that it’s important for Seminoles to see what other cultures are doing in terms of their crafts and arts,” Dilley said. “It’s just a really unique experience for everyone.”
The event is free for Seminole Tribe of Florida members and employees. Non-Tribal members can purchase tickets at the museum. All tickets include admission to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and boardwalk, as well as the Arts Celebration, and are $10 for adults, $7.50 for seniors and students and free for children ages 4 and younger.
Anyone interested in hosting a demonstration can contact Dilley at 863-902-1113, ext. 12211 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More detailed programming will be available closer to the event.