HOLLYWOOD — The Seminole Tribal Fair and Pow Wow lived up to its name as it wowed participants and visitors alike from Feb. 8-10. The 48th annual celebration of Native arts and culture drew large crowds at the Hard Rock Event Center in Hollywood.
“This is one of the coolest stops on the Pow Wow circuit,” said arena director Wendall Powless during the first grand entry of the Pow Wow on Feb. 8.
With those words, the weekend of drum and dance competitions commenced. The arena reverberated with the sound of the drums as the Native American Women Warriors Color Guard, Seminole Color Guard, elected officials, royalty and other officials led the grand entry. The floor filled with dancers in regalia that showed off a rainbow of colors, feathers, beadwork, ribbons, jingles, bells, headdresses, sashes and more.
Native arts from around North America, a concert headlined by Gretchen Wilson, Seminole fine arts contest, clothing contest, basketball tournament, rodeo, wildlife shows and the Native Film Festival filled out the weekend’s activities.
About 400 dancers and drummers came from all over the U.S. and Canada to compete for a share of $150,000 in prize money. The pow wow circuit is filled with competitors and their families who travel from event to event, leading to a familiarity and camaraderie among them.
About an hour before the first grand entry, the registration area was filled with competitors and their large rolling suitcases filled with regalia. The atmosphere was convivial as people caught up with each other, babies napped in strollers and the line to register grew.
The competitive dance events were Fancy, Grass, Chicken, Northern Traditional, Northern Cloth, Northern Buckskin, Southern Straight, Southern Cloth, Jingle and Southern Buckskin for men, women and teens. Ten drum groups competed in Northern and Southern combined categories.
Freeman Pinnecoose, Navajo, Southern Ute and Jicarilla Apache Tribes, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, goes to as many pow wows as he can every year and makes it a point to go to all the big ones. The Seminole Tribal Fair and Pow Wow is considered one of the big ones.
“This is part of my lifestyle,” he said. “I was raised singing and dancing. If it wasn’t for dancing, I wouldn’t be able to travel so much. Instead of sitting and reading, I’m out and living life; I love being Native American.”
Keith Sharphead, Cree Tribe, originally from Alberta, Canada, but now living in Jacksonville, has been dancing since he was a young boy. He competed in the pow wow three years ago and came back again because he wanted to see old friends and make new ones. A chicken dancer, Sharphead came in fourth in the senior division.
“I tell my friends to braid up and get sweaty,” said Marty Pinnecoose, Southern Ute and Jicarilla Apache Tribes, from Ignacio, Colorado. “It’s physical, like high impact aerobics. It makes you strong, healthy and alive.”
Pinnecose, a grass dancer, took third place in the golden age division. Jingle dancer Shaina Snyder, Navajo and Southern Ute, has been dancing since she could walk.
“It keeps you happy,” said Snyder, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “I’ve been around pow wows my entire life. I enjoy the spirit of everything here.”
Many of the dancers don’t remember a time when they didn’t dance. Indeed, during the pow wow’s crowded grand entries and intertribal drum competitions dancers of all ages took to the floor. Babies in the arms of parents were the only ones not dancing. Toddlers and very young children were a common site and even had a competition of their own; tiny tots.
“Pow wows are a respite for me,” said Orrenzo Snyder, Navajo Tribe and German, from Montezuma Creek, Utah. “I take a break from daily life and relax, reprocess and center myself. It’s all about balance in life.”
Grass dancer Snyder came in fourth in the senior division.
Not everyone at the event was there to compete; some wanted to watch and take it all in. Many shopped at some of the 67 vendor booths.
“I’ve been coming here for four years,” said Raquel Lewis, of Miami Beach. “I love the culture, the dancing and the drums. It hits your spine and your soul.”