Kicking off the weekend’s events will be the Choctaw Nation Princess Pageant at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, at the amphitheater on the Tribal Capitol grounds at Tuskahoma. Princesses from the 12 districts will compete in traditional dress, poise and talent. The newly crowned Sr. Miss, Jr. Miss and Little Miss will reign for the next year, representing the Choctaw Nation in events throughout the state.
“As always, we have something for every member of the family,” said Chief Greg Pyle. “The festival begins Thursday night with the Princess Pageant and runs through Monday. Our musical lineup is one of the best we have ever had and I hope everyone can bring the family and have a good time.”
Top country/western musical performers are in the lineup for the free concerts this year. On Friday night, starting at 6 p.m., is the “Small Town Girl” Kellie Pickler. At 8 p.m., Texas icon John Rich and country hick-hop artist Cowboy Troy, and at 10 p.m. is three-time Grammy nominee Pat Green. Saturday’s headliners include the pure harmony of the Gatlin Brothers at 6 p.m., concert favorite Neal McCoy at 8 p.m., and the legendary Kenny Rogers at 10 p.m.
Sunday Gospel Singing begins at 2 p.m. with a different group every 15 to 20 minutes until 7 p.m. when the Crabb Family takes the stage.
It will be an awesome reunion of family members including Crabb Revival, Jason Crabb, and Aaron and Amanda. At 8 p.m., the multi-award-winning Christian rock band Third Day is scheduled.
Come early, bring quilts and lawn chairs and enjoy the music. Following the regular concerts, a “Camp Meeting” will be held in the tent behind the amphitheater with Gospel music picking back up at 11:30 p.m. and continuing until the early hours of the morning.
The 11th Annual Labor Day Pow Wow will be held on the Capitol lawn Friday, Aug. 29, with gourd dancing beginning at 2 p.m. The Grand Entry is scheduled at 7 p.m. and is one of the most beautiful and moving events to see at the festival. Youth and adult contestants will be participating in Inter-Tribal dance competition following the grand entry.
The festival is about family and fun. Sports tournaments begin on Friday and Saturday and are on-going throughout the weekend. At any given time, there will be horseshoe play, 3-on-3 basketball, co-ed volleyball or the best of the best at fastpitch softball. A favorite of many festival-goers is the 5k run early on Saturday morning.
Sunday Worship Services are held at 10 a.m. in the tent behind the amphitheater. Joining Chaplain Bertram Bobb is this year’s guest speaker, Ron Hutchcraft of Harrison, Ark.
The historical Capitol Building is home to the Choctaw Nation Museum and Gift Shop. The annual Choctaw Nation Art Show takes place on the second floor of the newly renovated museum with exceptional entries in painting, graphics, sculpture, jewelry, pottery and basketry. The show begins on Saturday but the museum and gift shop are open all weekend.
A large area on the grounds is devoted to unique arts and crafts and a wide variety of food vendors. Specialty acts this year include Magician Russell Turner, Robinson’s Racing Pigs, superplay, rock climbing, a mechanical bull and pony rides. As before, the carnival rides are free, courtesy of Chief Pyle and the Tribal Council.
For someone looking for the traditional, the Choctaw Village is the place to be. Across the road from the Capitol Building is an authentic Choctaw village. A full schedule begins in the village at 10 a.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday, including Choctaw dancing, stickball skills, banaha making, storytelling, flintnapping, silversmithing, primitive weapons demonstrations, arts and crafts, and language lessons.
Much, much more is scheduled throughout the festival.