Teams are ready to play
Sports a large part of Choctaw way of life
by From the desk of Chief Gregory E. Pyle
The Nation’s capitol grounds will be transformed in just a few weeks. The annual Labor Day Festival kicks off Thursday, Aug. 29, with the princess pageant, and activities continue through Monday, Sept. 2, and the State of the Nation address. It’s a great weekend for families and friends and I hope you have made plans to join us. If you’ve never been to our festival, it’s an opportunity to enjoy games, entertainment, art, food and to learn more about the Choctaw Nation.
Sports tournaments bring in groups from all over Oklahoma and other states. Choctaws have historically been ready to play and ready to compete.
This is our third year to hold a stickball tournament during the festival. Our newest tournament features the Choctaws’ oldest sport and we have teams from Oklahoma and Mississippi on the schedule. The action begins on Friday night at the Tvshka Homma Stickball field and picks up again Saturday. On Sunday, there will be children’s and women’s exhibition games held before the championship between the final two men’s teams. Bring your lawn chairs and get comfortable – stickball is one of the most exciting games you will watch. Its history is centuries old, and as the players battle it’s easy to visualize our ancestors running swiftly for miles with their sticks trying to claim and protect the leather-covered ball.
Fastpitch softball games also begin on Friday. Many of the teams are made up of family members or a group from the same community. There are players who have returned to the Labor Day fastpitch tournament for at least 20 or 30 years and some can say they have played at Tvshka Homma for 40 years or more. It’s a family tradition. They are among the most dedicated players and fans I have ever seen. There are usually 50 teams signed up for the tournament with two or three generations on one of the four diamonds at the same time. Dads watch their sons slide home, granddaughters see their grandmothers hit line drives. The teams will be playing past midnight Friday, Saturday and Sunday to determine who will be this year’s women’s and men’s fastpitch champions.
The south end of the Red Warrior Sports Complex will be packed on Saturday with a day of volleyball, horseshoes and basketball drawing more spectators. A lot of these players, too, have been participating for decades. Nearby, at the Sycamore Springs Golf Course in Wilburton, will be the 11th annual golf tournament. It’s good to see all ages participating in activities they enjoy, sometimes entering more than one tournament during the weekend. Most of the athletes are busy year-round at home, playing or practicing their favorite sports. An energetic lifestyle produces long-term health benefits.
The tournaments are only one way to stay active at the festival. There is also the Youth Fitness Challenge, the Tough, Tough Choctaw contest, a 5k Run, corn games and playground fun for the kids.
What once begun as a one-day gathering in 1948 is still very much a large reunion. Whether you join in the competitions or watch, visit with old friends or make new ones, the festival is at the heart of Choctaw members everywhere.
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