By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Staff Writer
TAHLEQUAH — The Cherokee National Holiday Parade made a big impression on at least one international visitor Saturday morning.
Kevin Lee, who flew in from New Zealand for the event, said it was his first time to ever see a parade in person, and he felt fortunate for the experience.
“So far, I’m amazed,” Lee said. “I’ve seen parades on television back home, but it’s nothing like actually being here. Now I’m ready to see the powwow and the rodeo. I’ve never seen either except in John Wayne movies.”
Lee was one of thousands who lined Muskogee Avenue on Saturday morning for the 61st annual parade, part of the Cherokee National Holiday weekend.
More photos and reprints available from the parade here: http://muskogeephoenix.smugmug.com/Journalism/Cherokee-National-Holiday/31581205_6Fc7XJ.
Tommy Farar said he’s been going to the parade for the last 57 years.
“I’ve been coming every year since I was born,” Farar said. “I like just about everything about the parade, but I especially like seeing all the Native Americans. I’m Cherokee and I was born here, and I just enjoy it all.”
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Homes. Health. Hope.,” which signifies the Cherokee Nation’s focus on building homes, giving greater access to health care, and also providing hope to the Cherokee people.
Eraka Sims, who traveled from Alabama to see the parade, said she appreciated the event and the holiday because there isn’t a large Native American population where she lives.
“I think it’s great because we can come together and celebrate the culture,” Sims said. “For those of us from other states, it’s the realization that we as a people are not dead. That’s inspiring.”
Sims also said her favorite part of the parade was getting to listen to all the marching bands.
“I really like the bands because of the drums,” she said.
The parade featured 94 floats, many of which were decked out with the parade theme. Eager children lined the streets to be the first to catch the plethora of things thrown, which this year included flying rings, candy, and even bottles of water.
Jimmy Jacobs, who brought his family out for the festivities, said the parade was “fantastic.”
“It’s part of the celebration of the constitution of the Cherokee people, of which I am a proud citizen,” Jacobs said. “Several members of my family are from Arkansas, and I wanted them to come and be a part of this. You’re looking at four generations of my family here.”
Jacobs also said the parade, as well as the holiday, is a big boost for the city of Tahlequah.
“It obviously brings in a lot of revenue for the city,” he said. “But it’s also great for the Nation, and it reminds us of what they do for us, and what we can do for them.”
Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or firstname.lastname@example.org.