DETOURS: Indian festival celebrates tradition

"My husband started it because he thought Native Americans were the most misunderstood race," organizer Toadie Eddy says. "The public could come out and enjoy what's there, but be educated at the same time."

Eddy's husband Paul, a member of the Yankton Dakota or Sioux tribe, began the fest in 1992. After Paul died of lung cancer in August 2007, Eddy and her son Ryan took the reins.

The celebration, which takes place underneath a covered rodeo arena, remains virtually the same. About 35 to 40 vendors will be selling Native American wares like dream catchers, jewelry and pottery. Food vendors offer both American and Native American tastes. Live demonstrations include blowguns, drumming, flute playing and mask making.

Perhaps the most popular performance is the grand entry. This involves a color guard and a parade of Native American dancers in full costume showcasing their traditional moves. It takes place 1 and 7 p.m. May 24, 2 p.m. May 25 and 1 p.m. May 26.

"Sometimes people look at the dancers and say, 'That's a nice dance, but what are they doing?' " Eddy says. "So we have the dancers explain their regalia, the dance, and tell what tribe they're from."

The American Indian Festival returns to the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds Oct. 4-5.

> THE 411: $7; $4 ages 5-12; ages 4 and younger free. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. May 24; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 25; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 26. Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, 2405 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville. 770-791-0066, www.vitwind.com.

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