Choctaw Nation to hold its 66th annual Labor Day Festival
The Choctaw Nation is holding its 66th annual Labor Day Festival Aug. 29-Sept. 2 at its capitol grounds near Tuskahoma, Okla. Top entertainment, lots of fun and Choctaw cultural activities keep people coming back every year.
“The Nation’s festival is a tradition,” Chief Greg Pyle says. “Some of the people have been coming since they were kids. We try to give everyone a chance to enjoy what they like best whether it’s the concerts, the culture, the sports or just the great food.
“The surrounding communities prepare well in advance for the surge of visitors. We appreciate how everyone works with us,” Pyle continued. “Most of the Nation’s employees work the long weekend to provide a memorable holiday for others. We are grateful for all the hard work it takes to prepare and hold an event of this magnitude. It’s as much fun for us, though, as it is for all of our thousands of visitors.” Chief Pyle, Assistant Chief Gary Batton and the Tribal Council have agreed it is important to provide several cost-free activities at the festival such as the concerts and carnival rides because many are not able to afford the expense. All of the sports tournaments are also free to enter, which has increased participation, keeping the Red Warrior Sports Complex a hub of activity.
“Giving is in the heart of the Choctaw,” Chief Pyle said. The Choctaw Nation welcomes the opportunity to bring everyone together, he continued.
Thursday, Aug. 29, opens the five-day event with the tribe’s princess pageant at 7 p.m. Young ladies from the Choctaw Nation’s 12 districts vie for the titles of Little Miss, Junior Miss and Miss Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Each will have the opportunity to walk the amphitheater stage in their finest Choctaw traditional clothing, their beaded jewelry glowing under the lights. The junior and senior miss contestants also perform in a traditional talent competition. The three winners will become ambassadors for the Choctaw Nation, participating in the Friday night inter-tribal pow wow and other events during the festival. They will spend the next year traveling and representing the Choctaw Nation throughout Oklahoma and often in other states.
Top country music entertainers are booked for Friday and Saturday. The ever-popular Neal McCoy will shake things up at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the amphitheater. McCoy, a two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year, is known for his hits, “No Doubt About It,” “Wink” and “The Shake.” He has performed at several of the Choctaw Nation’s Labor Day Festivals and is one of the crowd favorites.
The headliner for Friday is Ronnie Dunn, on the road and sharing his powerful voice as a solo artist. Dunn, known for his successful days as half of the duo Brooks and Dunn, has one of the most recognizable sounds in country music today. His debut solo album reached the Top 10 with “Bleed Red” and the most recent single, “Kiss You There,” is rising in popularity.
Taking the stage at 7:30 Saturday night will be the legendary “Gentle Giant,” Don Williams. Since the 1970s, Williams has shared his unique style around the world. “And So It Goes,” released June 19, proves Williams’ vocals are still right on target with the audience. Siblings Kimberly, Neil and Reid – better known to all as The Band Perry – are one of the hottest acts in recent history. And they are performing Saturday, Aug. 31, at Tvshka Homma. The Band Perry has earned several honors including ACM, CMA and CMT Music awards, as well as Grammy nominations. Their exciting performance will be highlighted with hits such as “Better Dig Two,” “Done” and “If I Die Young.”
Among the specialty acts this year, Choctaw tribal member Robert “Tamaka” Bailey of San Francisco will be performing magic acts for everyone. Tamaka weaves his magic through his stories, speaking in English and Choctaw, and keeping kids of all ages enthralled. Storyteller Tim Tingle will be returning to the village area to share his tales of Choctaw culture. Tingle rivets the audience with his words, telling somber historical accounts or humorous legends about rabbits or Bigfoot.
The Choctaw National Day of Prayer opens a day of fellowship, worship and song at 7 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, at the war memorial. The worship service is followed by another service in the church tent near the amphitheater and a whole afternoon and evening of gospel singing. The sounds of worship can be heard across the grounds as performers begin lifting their voices. Twenty-nine acts begin singing in 15-minute intervals leading into concerts by the southern gospel group Gold City and contemporary Christian musician Jeremy Camp. Camp has 25 No. 1 radio singles including the recent “Overcome” from his album “We Cry Out.”
The culture of the Choctaw Nation is present throughout the five days. The sixth annual Art Show showcases a variety of fine art, all by Choctaw artists. Their work will be open to the public in the Choctaw Nation Museum located in the historic capitol building. A new exhibit on the Choctaw Code Talkers will also be ready by Labor Day weekend for all to enjoy. The cultural building on the other side of the grounds will have booth after booth of arts and crafts to purchase.
Choctaw social dances and the third annual stickball tournament are among the events reflecting the rich Choctaw heritage. Artists will be creating pottery, weaving baskets, beading jewelry, and shaping arrowheads in the Choctaw village, a “world” away from the modern bustle.
The festival’s finale on Labor Day morning features Chief Pyle’s State of the Nation address, an update on the progress of the Nation. Also on stage, will be the Choctaw Nation Color Guard posting the colors to open Monday’s official ceremonies, the princesses with The Lord’s Prayer in sign language, Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle, and the swearing-in of six councilmen who begin new terms.
It really is a place with something for everyone. For more information and a full schedule of events, please see our Labor Day page.