“It’s just so good to hear the laughter from people visiting each other. We always go back and forth to where we live and such, but seeing the friendship and love that is here today on purpose? We thank God for that,” said Pastor Salaw Hummingbird who led a lunchtime prayer.
Senior Gathering 2014, sponsored by the Tribe’s senior centers, featured non-stop bingo games and raffles. A barbecue lunch was served with customary picnic trimmings, but Big Cypress Culture Department also offered chickee-cooked traditional fare that included frybread, Indian tacos and boiled cabbage.
Vickey Huff, Elder Services director, said the annual get-together was the first held during a summer month. She said 103 elders attended.
“It’s a social event to get friends and family members together from other reservations for interaction and fun,” she said.
Brighton Board Rep. Larry Howard, an “elder in training,” turned out for support.
“I’m so happy to see everyone so happy. God willing, we will see each other again and again,” Rep. Howard said.
Guests hugged each other, posed for cellphone photographs, rehashed stories from the past and buzzed about the present.
Mitchell Cypress told about a recent 14-day bus trip with 41 Big Cypress seniors and chaperones to the Midwest where the group visited the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and attended the 96th annual Crow Fair in Montana. The group also popped into several other cities including Birmingham, Alabama and St. Louis, Missouri.
“Along our travels we stopped at every main landmark – and every Wal-Mart,” he said half-joking, because a Seminole senior trip is not complete without pit stops at Wal-Mart. “Every senior enjoyed it.”
The next big all-reservation annual senior events at Big Cypress will be the Trike Fest Oct. 30 and the Christmas bash in December.
At the recent Big Cypress gathering, Linda O. Henry, of Tampa, said chances to touch base with loved ones from other reservations are always a blessing.
“Being with people we haven’t seen in a while is special. Today was one of those times. We’d all like to come back every year, if the good Lord allows it,” Henry said. “After all, we do have a lot of friends and relatives.”