Ramblin' Rhodes: New Native American festival was born of Oka'Chaffa

Paiute fiddler Arvel Bird plays at the 2013 Oka'Chaffa Indian Festival. The event returns this weekend under a new name, the National Native American Pow Wow Festival, and is expected to again draw a crowd.

Phil Galaviz of Lawrenceville, Ga., promises that the Native American festival being held this weekend near Augusta Regional Airport – an offshoot of the Oka’Chaffa Indian Festival held the past four years – will not only be as good as ever, it absolutely will be better than ever.

 

And why does he promise that? Because with the April death of Chipa Wolfe who headed the Oka’Chaffa Indian Festival the past four years, Galaviz now is heading up the rejuvenated and renamed National Native American Pow Wow Festival.

The successor to Wolfe’s festival takes place 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, at the New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam Park north of Augusta Regional Airport. Tickets are $12. Children 10 and younger are admitted free. Call (404) 857-5964 with questions.

If you talk with any of the 6,000 people on average who attended any of the past four festivals, they most likely would say that you really need to be there. It’s a family fun festival unlike any other that you may have seen in eastern Georgia or western South Carolina.

Galaviz not only is getting positive responses from local people and commercial sponsors to his continuing the festival, but he has been getting calls from people as far as Greenville, S.C., and parts of Georgia and Florida about wanting to attend this year’s event.

“I have had an educational group from Greenville contact me about bringing their students here interested in Native American history,” Galaviz said, “but they are also coming because they are into video and photography studies and see this festival as a way to explore those interests.”

When appearing on Mary Morrison’s noon talk show on WJBF-TV last week, Morrison and Galaviz talked about how important it is to bring together diverse cultural groups just as the annual Hispanic and Greek festivals do.

Morrison also noted that area residents long have been united in celebrating their cultural heritages including with the annual Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival that has included international food and arts for several decades.

Co-owners of Silla’s restaurant on Broad Street, Felton Mitchell and his wife, Tae, told Galaviz, “Oh, yeah, we love going out there and taking our grandkids. We plan to be there this year.”

So what can you expect at the 2016 National Native American Pow Wow Festival?

Pretty much the same exciting and fascinating and educational offerings of the past intriguing and mouth-dropping elements of the Oka’Chaffa festivals.

There will be Birds of Prey demonstrations on Sunday, Oct. 23, but this year with the hawks swooping down from the sky over the heads of visitors and grabbing objects swung by Dale Arrowood.

In the past, Ray Pena was the Birds of Prey demonstrator who literally had festival-goers stopping in their tracks to watch his variety of hawks. Galaviz said he had to book performers quickly to bring this year’s festival about and that Arrowood was only free for one day.

“I could only get (him) for Sunday, but it’s going to be a really great show,” he said.

Both days will include unique attractions such as Native American dancers and dummers and returning festival entertainer Arvel Bird with his beautiful violin and also Celtic and Native American flute playing, and festival newcomer Ian Tyson talking about the differences between alligators and crocodiles and also educating the public about snakes.

There also will be lots of food including buffalo burgers, alligator nuggets, Indian tacos and fry bread.

Visitors can either walk from the parking a short distance to the festival site or catch a hayride wagon.

And you can’t buy any better than “Made in America” crafts of jewelry and clothing from the ancestors of Native Americans. Visit roadrunnerenterprisesllc.com for more details.

Galaviz, like the late festival organizer Wolfe, has been expressing praise to the Augusta-Richmond County Recreation Department for its full-out support since the festival site is owned by the city/county.

“I can’t say enough good things about this community that has embraced this festival,” Galaviz said. “I want it to be a showcase to America of how Augusta embraces its cultural heritages especially as it applies to Native Americans.”

 

CULTURAL SERIES AT USC AIKEN: The touring show Live From Nashville produced by Nashville, Tenn.-based Matt Davenport Productions is the first offering in the 2016-2017 Cultural Series. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Etherredge Center at USC Aiken, 471 University Parkway.

Talented singers and dancers will be backed by some of Music City’s best musicians in performing classic country songs made famous by a wide range of artists including Hank Williams and Patsy Cline.

Admission is $40 or $15 for students with a valid ID. Call (803) 641-3305.

Other offerings in the series are French pianist Pascal Rogé on Dec. 2, An Evening With Danny Kaye featuring Brian Childers portraying the late Broadway and movie singer/comedian on Jan. 19, the Harlem Quartet classical music group on Feb. 11, the Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing on March 2 and The Russian National Ballet performing Sleeping Beauty on March 16.

 

HEPHZIBAH FOUNDERS’ DAY FUN: There are going to be a lot of talented local musicians performing for free at Hephzibah Founders’ Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, in the Southern Bank lot, 2455 Georgia Highway 88.

The lineup will be: Noon, Calvin Esley Lewis of Lincolnton, Ga.; 12:15 p.m., Steve Cheeks; 1 p.m., Doug Flowers Band; 2 p.m., Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice; 3 p.m., Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; and 4 p.m., John Kolbeck Band.

 

FAREWELL TO BOBBY HAMILTON: There was a lot of laughter and tears at the visitatation and funeral of Bobby Joe Hamilton on Oct. 11-12 in North Augusta. Hamilton died Oct. 8 at age 75 just a couple of hours after attending a reunion of his North Augusta High School classmates. He and his wife, Dorothy, had celebrated their 50th anniversary in November 2015.

Since Hamilton loved music so much, the Sweetwater Baptist Church Quartet sang two Southern gospel songs, church music leader Mark Abbott sang Oh Happy Day at Hamilton’s recent request and the song Over The Rainbow was played as the family exited the church.

Members of the Jesse C. Lynch Memorial American Legion Post 71 served as pallbearers and post Chaplain Jody Galloway had mourners at graveside laughing in telling of how Hamilton won the Sancken Youth Review talent contest at the Miller Theater by singing Elvis Presley’s rocking Blue Suede Shoes.

 

CHUBBY CHECKER IN NEWBERRY: He probably doesn’t remember me, but just a few days after I joined the afternoon Augusta Herald staff in December 1971, I went to interview The Twist legend himself rocker Chubby Checker at Kittens’ Korner nightclub on Deans Bridge Road near Gordon Highway.

He had to stay over Christmas Day due to his week-long schedule. I didn’t know hardly anyone in the area, and he didn’t either, so just out of mouth I asked if he would like to share Christmas Day dinner with me and then wife, Jackie, at our apartment at Carolina Terrace in North Augusta.

Checker, a South Carolina native who is performing at the Newberry (S.C.) Opera House at 3 and 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, readily accepted saying he had to stay over the holiday to finish his week at the nightclub and didn’t have any close friends in Augusta.

So if you go to his Newberry show, please tell him I never have forgotten him for sharing that wonderful and warm Christmas Day dinner with two newcomers to North Augusta.

 

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