Rain, wind fail to dampen PCI’s 50th Thanksgiving celebration
News Staff Report
A large crowd of indeterminate size braved a heavy rainstorm and stiff, chilly winds to attend this year’s resumption of the two-day Poarch Band of Creek Indians Thanksgiving Pow Wow, which had been dormant for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Neither Chris “Ding Ding” Blackburn, PCI’s planning and events coordinator, nor Kristin Hellmich, the tribe’s director of strategy and media communications, could be reached for an exact attendance figure or comments on the overall success of the event.
However, comments posted on the local tribe’s Facebook page indicate that traffic was backed up from the festival grounds to Interstate 65, with some attendees reporting a span of nearly an hour to reach the Pow Wow parking lot from the interstate.
The 50th annual “gathering of the tribes” featured members of numerous Native American nations from across the country who took part in an impressive Grand Entry and competed for cash prizes of more than $125,000 in dance and drum contests.
The yearly event, which was held Thanksgiving Day and the following Friday (November 24-25), was established in 1971 as a homecoming celebration for members of the Poarch Creek Tribe, which still inhabits the land on which it established its tribal home thousands of years ago
The Pow Wow was expanded in the 1980s to include the public and members of all Native American tribes and has become over the past four decades a major cultural showcase and tourist draw.
Vendors offered unique native crafts and goods, including food offerings that ranged from standard fare — such as barbecue, ham, turkey and chicken with various side dishes — to Native American dishes like fire-roasted corn, fried bread and buffalo burgers.
A highlight of this year’s, and every year’s, festival is the PCI Princess Contest. A dozen girls and women of varying ages were selected as 2022-23 tribal princesses or alternates, and two of the princesses were named winners of awards.
Yanasa Alvarez, who was tabbed Elementary Princess, was also winner of the Best Interview and Best Talent awards, while Savannah Gibson, who won the Best Spirit Award (decided by vote of the contestants), was also crowned Junior Princess.
Princesses and alternates in the Little Miss category were Jayla Smith (Princess) and Jolie-Ann Smedley (Alternate), while in the Elementary category, alternates were Emmee Hayes (1st Alternate), Magnolia Smedley (2nd Alternate) and Ella McGhee (3rd Alternate). In the Junior category, Anna Grace Hollinger was chosen Alternate.
Winners and alternates in the categories for more mature ladies were Mckenna Pettis (Senior Princess), Amanda Montgomery (Senior Adult Princess), Rosalind Smith (Senior Adult Alternate) and Vicky Burns (Elder Princess).
Winners of the Drum Contest, which paid $12,000 for first place, $10,000 for runner-up and a total of $43,000 to the top-5 finishers, were not available by Tuesday’s press deadline, nor were the winners of the six Dance Contest categories (with male and female subcategories) or the 5K Turkey Trot.