Hundreds of people from across Canada and the U.S. are planning to attend the first international powwow to be held in Red Deer in 20 years.
The Red Deer International Powwow, running from Oct. 22-24 at Westerner Park’s Exhibition Hall, is expected to be an entertaining, family-friendly spectacle. It will not only celebrate Indigenous arts and culture, but also contribute several million dollars to the local economy, say organizers.
About 500 dancers, alone, are expected to be in attendance, wearing traditional, colourful regalia. They will be competing for prizes in seven dance styles and various age categories, from “Tiny Tots” (under age six) to “Golden Age” (55-plus).
With a theme that “honours children of the past (while) celebrating our youth of today,” the powwow will also feature singing and drumming contests, as well as a trade show of sale items, including jewelry, art and moccasins.
Co-organizers Marrisa and Patrick Mitsuing, of Red Deer, say they have been fielding calls since event planning began mid-summer. It didn’t take much to get the word since the spouses run the Powwow Times website, which gets two million views monthly.
Marrisa noted her American relatives told her they’re coming up, despite complications posed by the pandemic.
The Mitsuings have, meanwhile, been working closely with Alberta Health Services to ensure the event follows all health protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As with all large Westerner Park events, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test results must be provided to gain entry.
Marrisa, who runs the Red Deer Aboriginal Dance Troupe, initially envisioned a much smaller dance event as a way of celebrating a powwow regalia exhibit that she and Patrick assembled for the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.
But interest ran so high that the scope of the event grew, she added.
Patrick feels it’s high time for another International Powwow to be held in Red Deer. The last one was about two decades ago, and proved controversial when some sponsors pulled out at the last minute, he noted.
This time, the Mitsuings say there’s plenty of support from local businesses, the museum and City of Red Deer and various community groups.
The Mitsuings hope the local powwow becomes a successful annual celebration. Patrick stressed it’s open to everybody: “You don’t have to be Indigenous to come. It’s alcohol free, so it’s a nice family-friendly event.”
For more information, including admission prices, visit pwtpowwow.com.