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77th annual Brighton Field Day relays past traditions to present

Field Day13BRIGHTON — Cowboys and crowds converged to celebrate Seminole heritage during the 77th annual Brighton Field Day Festival and PRCA Rodeo Feb. 13-15.

More than 6,300 people attended the action-packed event that featured long-standing traditions, like clothing contests and rodeo competitions, and new additions, including Indian relay horse racing.

Field Day began in 1938 as an athletic competition between reservations, said Amos Tiger, Fred Smith Rodeo Arena director and a Field Day lead coordinator. Once the rodeo, food, and arts and crafts were added to the lineup, the event became a big festival.

Chairman James E. Billie said he remembers attending Field Day as a boy and is as impressed by it now as he was then.

“The competitions that took place were amazing to me as a 6 year old,” he said. “I remember Billy Bowlegs, he was in his 70s or 80s, yet he competed with young men in the broad jump. Today, the competition is in the rodeo.”

Members of the Florida State University marching band, joined by Osceola riding Renegade, once again made an appearance at Field Day, which is the only event where they appear outside FSU’s annual schedule.

“Whether you are an FSU fan or not their presence is moving, especially during the preshow of the rodeo,” said Lucy Bowers, a Field Day lead coordinator. “The band performs the national anthem and then the band brings in Renegade and Osceola with their war chant; your chest just fills with pride.”

The grand entry parade Feb. 14 featured Tribal officials and royalty, exhibition pow-wow dancers, floats and decorated ATVs and golf carts. For the first time, the Lakota Women Warriors Color Guard participated in the parade and paid homage to their Lakota culture and military service.

The group of veterans formed in 2014 to bring recognition to Native American women in the military. They dress in traditional Native American clothing with military jackets.

“We are three lady veterans who came together to lead our people not in active duty but by giving back to our community,” said Brenda White Bull, U.S. Marine Corps 1989-2009. “Giving back to our people is our calling and we hope to give that back to you. We are all related.”

Appearances by Jimmy Riffle, from Animal Planet’s “Gator Boys;” Britney, Kasey and Chelsea Brooks from Great American Country’s “Growing Up Gator;” and concerts by DJ Elizabeth Cook, the Shannon Reed Band, and George Molton and 90 Proof kept attendees entertained throughout the three-day event.

Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola, Hollywood Board Rep. Steve Osceola, Brighton Board Rep. Larry Howard and Tribal member Richard Osceola presented Cook, host of “Apron Strings” on SiriusXM radio, with two patchwork aprons.

“This is a beautiful day with good music and good food,” Richard Osceola said.

“And good people,” added Rep. Howard.

Artist Bradley Cooley Jr. worked on a clay sculpture of Miss Florida Seminole Brianna Nunez for all to witness. Nunez sat patiently as Cooley worked out details on the piece, which will be molded and cast in bronze. The process takes about nine months.

Dozens of vendors from throughout Indian Country sold Native American arts and crafts, and carnival rides entertained younger generations.

“It’s always good to come out and visit,” said Big Cypress Board Rep. Joe Frank. “It enables me to kick back and enjoy the day.”

A horse race between Tribal members was held on the new race track east of the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena. Riders in western saddles rode like jockeys in silks as they strived to make it to the finish line first.

Categories included 17U boys, 17U girls, adult men, adult women and seniors. The winners of each race competed in a final match of the champions; Justin Gopher came in first, Nauthkee Henry took second and Jaylen Baker nabbed third.

A new crowd favorite, the Indian relay race, pitted three teams against each other. One bareback rider on each team jumped off a galloping horse and onto another to continue racing. Bowers said the relay drew attendance far past expectations.

Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow also drew a crowd during a Feb. 15 church service. The Heisman Trophy winner met with festival goers for several hours afterward.

“There is a lot that goes on all day every day,” Bowers said. “That has always been our goal, to keep you busy during your stay. When you walk out of the gates we hope that you can say you had the ultimate entertainment experience and will want to come back for more.”

 

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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