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Tribe celebrates 81st Brighton Field Day

BRIGHTON — The 81st annual Brighton Field Day Festival and Rodeo had something for everyone. Held Feb. 15-17, the fun-filled event attracted more than 5,000 people from the region who came to enjoy the music, entertainment, rodeo, Indian relay races, shopping and food.

As a bonus, visitors also learned about Seminole culture, food and arts and crafts. Tribal vendors did a brisk business selling patchwork, beadwork, baskets and other traditional items.

Field Day actually began as an athletic competition between the reservations in 1938. Once the rodeo, food, arts and crafts were added, the event morphed into the massive festival it is now.

Florida Seminole veterans participate in the 81st annual Brighton Field Day parade Feb. 16 on the Brighton Reservation. From left, Jack Smith (U.S. Army), Paul Bowers Sr. (U.S. Marines), Eddie Shore (U.S. Air Force), Billie Micco (U.S. Army), Curtis Motlow (U.S. Navy), Stanlo Johns (U.S. Army), Moses Osceola (U.S. Marines) and Sallie Josh (U.S Navy). The veterans were aboard Stanlo Johns’ trailer and they sat on bay hales donated by Walpole Feed. (Photo Derrick Tiger)

On the first day, hundreds of school children filled the stands for the grand entry which included Tribal officials, Seminole royalty, Miss Indian World, the Lakota Women Warriors and Seminole Color Guards and WISDOM dancers exhibition group.

Next up was the traditional warrior demonstration which, through simulated traditional warfare, showed how the Seminoles deterred the U.S. soldiers in the Everglades during the Seminole Wars and became the Unconquered Tribe.

Members of the warrior team, Quenton Cypress, Tucomah Robbins, Jason Melton and Andrew Walin train long and hard to perfect the moves while using authentic weapons from the 1800s. The “fights” are actually carefully choreographed stunts; they each take a beating, but none more than Walin, who plays the U.S. soldier. He lost every “fight” and wound up on the ground each time.

Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr. tips his cowboy hat to the crowd during the Brighton Field Day & Rodeo’s second day Feb. 16. (Photo Derrick Tiger)

Tara Johns brought a group of home schooled students from Highlands County to experience their first Field Day.

“It was very interesting,” said ninth grader Lantana Turner, 14. “We usually just see the settlers’ side of it.”

Fueled by the Buck Wild drum group from Arizona, the WISDOM dancers from Oklahoma each showcased their own dance style. Feathers, ribbons, jingles and shawls made for a stunning display of fancy, grass, traditional, jingle and fancy shawl dancing. A spirit and shield dance between a hoop and fancy dancer was colorful simulation of warfare.

Tribal member Shylah Walker, 10, who has been jingle dancing for four years, joined the WISDOM dancers in the amphitheater.

Aztec Fire Dancers, alligator wrestling, venomous snake shows, Laura Grizzlypaws, White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers and Zuni Dancers rotated through the amphitheater each day of the festival. Over in the Fan Zone concert area, attendees were entertained by the Cowbone Band, the Redneck Crazy Band and the Rita Youngman Band.

Hvse Osceola, 5, shows the man with the adorable furry things exactly which one she wants as her father Joe Osceola and sister Jaleigh Braswell, 10, watch her choose the cuddly shark. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

The Fred Smith Rodeo arena came to life each day with the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association rodeo, which featured cowboys and cowgirls from around the nation as well as Seminole reservations. An appearance from Florida State University’s Osceola and Renegade added to the colorful pageantry as part of the rodeo Feb. 16.

Paul Bowers Sr., retired Marine Corps colonel and recipient of two Purple Heart awards, was honored for his service in Vietnam before the Lakota Women Warriors presented the colors. Mackenzie Bowers displayed the American Flag on horseback and Rita Youngman sang the U.S. national anthem.

With that, the cowboys and cowgirls did their best to earn points and accolades as they rode broncs and bulls, wrestled and roped steer and sped horses around stationary barrels.

An Aztec fire dancer begins the troop’s performance by blowing a conch shell Feb. 15 at the Brighton Field Day & Rodeo. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Shylah Walker jingle dances in the amphitheater at Brighton Field Day on Feb. 15. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Contestants line up for the judges in the Seminole clothing contest. (Photo Derrick Tiger)
Juanita Osceola and J.T. Osceola compete in the clothing contest. (Photo Derrick Tiger)
Quenton Cypress and Andrew Walin demonstrate how the Seminoles beat the U.S. Army during the Seminole Wars in the 1800s. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
At left, a hoop dancer wows the audience with his performance. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Florida State University’s Osceola and Renegade rev up the audience at Brighton Field Day & Rodeo. (Photo Derrick Tiger)
Aztec Dancers perform a dance in front of a big crowd at Brighton Field Day & Rodeo. (Photo Derrick Tiger)
EIRA Rodeo Queen Madisyn Osceola, Miss Indian World Taylor Susan, Miss Florida Seminole Cheyenne Kippenberger and Jr. Miss Florida Seminole Clarice Demayo at the Brighton Field Day on Feb. 15. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
EIRA Rodeo Queen Madisyn Osceola, Miss Indian World Taylor Susan, Miss Florida Seminole Cheyenne Kippenberger and Jr. Miss Florida Seminole Clarice Demayo at the Brighton Field Day on Feb. 15. (Courtesy photo)
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

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