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Thousands warm up to Brighton Field Day

BRIGHTON – The Brighton Field Day is still looking good at 80.

The 80th edition of the annual event welcomed thousands of visitors to the Brighton Reservation for three sun-splashed days of art, culture, dance, food, music, wildlife and professional rodeo.

Field Day started Feb. 16, a day when the temperature reached the mid-80s but it felt more like summer than winter.

“Kansas has humidity; you have a lot of humidity,” said John Richard, a dancer with the Haskell University Dance Troupe, which performed in the Grand Entry ceremony in front of stands that were filled with hundreds of young schoolkids from Clewiston, Moore Haven and Okeechobee.

The grand entry also included Brighton Board Rep. Larry Howard, Miss Florida Seminole Randee Osceola, Jr. Miss Florida Seminole Kailani Osceola and U.S. Staff Sgt. Gabriel Coppedge, who grew up in Big Cypress and now lives in Arizona. Later, Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr. provided welcoming remarks to the audience.

Randee Osceola introduced herself to the crowd and noted that she is from the Immokalee Reservation and is part of the Wind Clan. She urged the visitors to be inquisitive.

“Don’t be scared to ask questions,” she said.

Those sentiments were echoed by Kailani Osceola, who told the audience that she is from the Otter Clan and the Trail community.

“I hope you learn lots and lots. Come up to us and ask us questions,” she said.

Lewis Gopher hosted part of the opening ceremonies and explained the Tribe’s culture, including its language and the different clans.

The crowd was treated to a performance by the Osceola Warriors Legacy Reenactment that featured “fights” between a U.S. Soldier (Andrew Wallin) and Seminole warriors Quinton Cypress, Tucomah Robbins and Jason Melton along with Seminole female warriors Alyssa Osceola and Charli Osceola. The group, which has expertise in martial arts, depicted the types of battles – including hand-to-hand, bayonet, knife and rifles – reminiscent of the Seminole Wars in the 1800s. They wore period-attire, which, on a sweltering day, led to sweaty and dusty tussles.

“Conditions out here today are not unlike the conditions back then,” Charlie Osceola, the group’s director, said in reference to the high heat.

Veteran alligator wrestler Billy Walker and wrestlers from the Freestyle Alligator Wrestling Competitions provided ample entertainment with their sharp-toothed creatures.

Taste buds were tempted by an array of vendors with names such as World Famous Ice Tea, Made From Scratch Bakery and 4th Day Homemade Ice Cream.

One week after he finished tied for 10th at the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am team event in California, singer Colt Ford, who used to be a professional golfer, entertained a big crowd as Saturday night’s headliner at Field Day.

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