ONEIDA – For the first time, the Oneida Pow Wow will include a fireworks display during the festivities.
The 48th annual Oneida Pow Wow returns this weekend, Friday-Sunday, after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fireworks display will be shown Saturday night.
“Everybody’s missing the pow wow,” said Tonya Webster, chairwoman of the Oneida Nation Pow Wow Advisory Council. “Our last one was in July of 2019.”
With the nice weather this weekend, she’s expecting the event to draw at least its typical crowd of around 10,000 spectators.
The pow wow grounds at the Norbert Hill Center, N7210 Seminary Road, Oneida, have been reconfigured to add more bleachers to the arena to help spectators spread out. Hand sanitizing stations will also be placed throughout the grounds.
Along with traditional dances, some of the featured dances will include grass dancing from the Western Indigenous nations, fancy shawl dancing by women and girls, fancy feather dancing by men and boys, and Oneida’s own smoke dancing.
Up for grabs is $91,000 in prize money for the dance contests.
Inter-tribal dances also will be held throughout the weekend in which anyone can join in for fun.
The three-day dance contest will still be done with COVID-19 safety protocols.
“Our theme is community healing, and we hope this event will bring people together while standing 6 feet apart,” Webster told the Oneida Nation’s newsletter, Kalihwisaks. “We hope everyone will mark their calendar and come home.”
Organizers are not setting up any tents to keep the entire festival in the open air and reduce or eliminate the spread of COVID-19.
During the grand entries, the dancers will not circle and congregate in the arena, but will come in dancing from one side and exiting the other to encourage social distancing.
Grand entry times are 7 pm Friday, 1 and 7 pm Saturday, and noon Sunday.
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The event is also an opportunity for Indigenous art and food vendors to showcase and sell their craftwork, such as Indigenous-made jewelry and frybread.
The number of food and vendor booths is being reduced from 41 to 25 to encourage social distancing.
Admission is $8 per day and $15 for a weekend pass. Children 5 and younger and seniors 62 and older enter free.
Frank Vaisvilas is a Report For America corps member based at the Green Bay Press-Gazette covering Native American issues in Wisconsin. He can be reached at 815-260-2262 or [email protected], or on Twitter at @vaisvilas_frank. Please consider supporting journalism that informs our democracy with a tax-deductible gift to this reporting effort at GreenBayPressGazette.com/RFA.