The 17th Annual Pechanga Pow Wow welcomed its first wave of visitors on Friday evening with the traditional Gourd Dance and Grand Entry.
Organizers anticipate over 60,000 people will attend the event from Friday through Sunday, making it the second busiest day of the year for Pechanga Resort and Casino, behind New Year’s Eve.
“We are always so pleased with the turnout,” said organizer Randy Pico. “It is truly an enriching family event.”
Eagle Staff Flag Bearer, Saginaw Grant opened the evening with an invocation to the Creator.
“You know why we sing, why we dance and why we drum. It is the heartbeat of the Indian people,” said Grant. He went on to ask that all inhabitants of Mother Earth would be at peace with one another and at peace with themselves.
Attendees were thrilled by the performances of nearly 1,000 drummers, dancers and singers from across America, ranging in age from 2 to 80+.
The Pow Wow is one of the largest in the Western US and draws talent such as the Grammy-nominated Omaha White Tail Singers, Jessa Rea Growing Thunder, the current Miss Indian World, and Head Northern Man Dancer Stan Whiteman Sr., a current world champion dancer.
Michael Grant of the Omaha White Tail Singers has been attending the Pow Wow for over 10 years.
“My kids and grandkids were in the arena before they could walk,” said Grant. “We look forward to this celebration every year and I am honored to participate as a singer and drummer.”
Grant commended the Pechanga tribe for hosting the Pow Wow.
“The hospitality we receive here is incredible,” he said.
The Pow Wow features dance contests for Golden Age, adults, teens, juniors, boys & girls and Tiny Tots, as well as a drum contest and Peon Tournament.
In addition to the performances, the Pow Wow offers displays from the various tribal cultures as well as over 200 artisan vendors selling native arts, crafts, food, and blankets.
“We believe that this is the most unique opportunity for families to experience the Native American culture first hand,” said Pico. “As such, we offer free camping, parking and entrance, making it easily accessible to the entire community.”
Performances continue through Saturday and Sunday with one of the region’s biggest fireworks displays held after dusk on Saturday evening.
For more information, visit www.pechanga.com.
Corie Maue is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.