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Brighton Field Day Festival attracts thousands

From left to right are Brighton Board Rep. Helene Buster, FSU head football coach Mike Norvell, Brighton Councilman Larry Howard, Renegade team owner Allen Durham, Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. and Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola. (Mike Norvell/Twitter)

BRIGHTON — Thousands of people attended the 84th annual Brighton Field Day Festival from Feb. 17 to Feb. 19. Native dancers, an alligator wrestling competition, a professional rodeo, concerts and plenty of culture were featured on the Brighton Reservation. It was the first in-person Field Day since 2020 due to the pandemic.

The festival showcased Seminole arts, culture and food at the Brighton culture camp adjacent to the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena. Guests tasted traditional food at the cooking chickee as women prepared traditional Seminole fry bread, pumpkin fry bread and lapalle. Seminole vendors were kept busy with customers at booths filled with colorful patchwork clothing, beadwork, baskets, wood carvings, artwork and other traditional items. Other Native American vendors from around the country also did a brisk business selling their traditional items. Brighton resident Norman “Skeeter” Bowers served as emcee for the annual parade.

The grand marshal of the parade on Feb. 18 was former Seminole Tribe Chairman James E. Billie, who, with his daughter Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie, led the parade. They were followed by Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., President Mitchell Cypress, Brighton Councilman Larry Howard and Brighton Board Rep. Helene Buster.

The parade also featured the Florida State University marching band, which was led into the amphitheater by “Osceola” riding Renegade, the Appaloosa horse. Heavy with brass and drums, the band played a few songs, including the traditional FSU fight song. Floats included FSU football head coach Mike Norvell, Florida Seminole Veterans, the Brighton Culture Department and Brighton’s First Indian Baptist Church. Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School’s representation in the parade included Mr. PECS Gregory James and Miss PECS Joleyne Nunez, the safety patrol, the student council and a large float filled with students.

Members of the Wisdom Indian Dancers honor guard led the grand entry followed by the Lakota Women Warriors color guard and members of Tribal Council and Board.

Osceola’s Warrior Legacy demonstrated how Seminoles fought the U.S. Army in the Everglades during the Seminole Wars in the 1800s. Jason Melton, Alyssa Osceola, Charlie Osceola and Andrew Wallin wore traditional clothing, used weapons from the era and demonstrated how Seminoles and U.S. soldiers fought each other. Wallin was dressed in a heavy wool uniform typical of the U.S. Army while the Seminoles wore traditional, lightweight clothing. The historical depiction ended the way the real history played out; Seminoles defeated the Army and remained unconquered.

A standing room only crowd at the amphitheater watched the Freestyle Alligator Wrestling Competitions. Tribal member Billy Walker and Miccosukee tribal member Joseph Osceola competed along with other non-tribal wrestlers.

The White Mountain Apache crown dancers, Roberts family hoop dancers and Aztec fire dancers also performed in the amphitheater. A fan zone near the entrance to the arena featured concerts by the Rita Youngman Band and Shannon Reed. The PRCA rodeo and Xtreme Bulls were held in the arena. A performance by country music star Gary Allan was the main event on Saturday night.

The Field Day Festival began in 1938 as a friendly competition between reservations and evolved into the popular fun-filled event it is today.

Field Day grand marshal and former Chairman James E. Billie and his daughter Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie watch the parade in an ATV. (Beverly Bidney)
The amphitheater stand are filled to capacity as Billy Walker wrestles an alligator during the Freestyle Alligator Wrestling Competitions held in a large pit of water. (Beverley Bidney)
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