History of the Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival

The Beginning of the Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival

2006 Native Circle on Flat Rock

2006 Native Circle on Flat Rock at Jellystone Park

In 2006, the Lake Ontario Bird Festival (LOBF), a nature-based celebration of the migratory birds living in Oswego County held annually at Jellystone Park, hired Laura K. Vannah to help with fund development.

In looking at new events to add to their festival, the committee turned to Laura’s expertise in Native American spirituality, culture and music.

The goal in adding the Native Circle was an intentional effort to expose local and visiting youth and adults to the culture, arts, and wisdom of Native America, and it seemed to be a natural fit with the nature based festival.

The 2006 Native Circle featured workshops by Laura K. Vannah on Native American Animal Totems; the Thunder Hawk Singers, a local Native American drumming group; and David Searching Owl, a Native American flutist from New Hampshire.

In 36° weather, bundled up while performing on the Flat Rock at Jellystone, the Native Circle Touch the Earth was launched.

Joseph Firecrow at 2007 Native Circle

Joseph Firecrow performing at the 2007 Native Circle

With the success of these events in 2006, Laura K. Vannah and the LOBF organizing committee decided to expand this event in 2007 to include a well-known GRAMMY™ nominated award winning flute player, Joseph Firecrow.

The 2007 Native Circle was such a big hit with the LOBF festival goers that Laura wanted to expand it in 2008 to include Native Storytelling with The Storytellers, while bringing back all the performers from the previous years.

At the beginning of 2008, the LOBF organizing committee, after much agonizing, decided to cancel the LOBF for the first time in over eleven years. What funding they did have was ear-marked for the Native Circle.

Laura K. Vannah, M.A., Founder and Executive Producer of the Native Circle, met with Betty Green and Sandra Scott, Co-Presidents of the Friends of Mexico Point Park, to ask for help to continue the legacy of the LOBF.

Laura decided to hold the first annual Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival.

Thunder Hawk Singers

Thunder Hawk Singers, Laura "Bright Star" Vannah & Donald Blackfox

  • The Friends of Mexico Point Park graciously offered Mexico Point Park to help keep the Native Circle going;
  • Laura raised the funds necessary to bring all the performers – Owl & Dove, Thunder Hawk Singers, Joseph Firecrow, and The Storytellers ;
  • and on May 25th, 2008, the Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival stepped out from under the Lake Ontario Bird Festival (LOBF) umbrella to overwhelming success and became a festival in its own right.

The 2008 Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival had over 250 people attend the concerts that day, which quadrupled the number of festival attendees over the previous years under the LOBF umbrella. There were many visitors to the 2008 festival that have attended since its inception at the LOBF in 2006.

On May 31, 2009, over 250 people again attended the second Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival at Mexico Point State Park in Mexico NY.

2009 Native Circle

A Touch of Native American

  • The 2009 Award-winning Thunder Hawk Singers opened the festival with traditional Mi’kmaq and Northern Cheyenne music.
  • The Storytellers and Owl & Dove, formerly known as Sacred Winds, two groups from New Hampshire, combined their talents to create A Touch of Native America, an entertaining and informative production of Native American song, storytelling and flute music.

We added the Native American Music Award-winning band, Corn Bred, from the Onondaga Nation, to our 2009 line-up. They delighted our festival goers at the end of the day with their unique blend of rhythm and blues, rock and traditional American Indian music.

2010 Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival was a HUGE Success!!!

What an amazing, awe-inspiring weekend we had at the 3rd Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival, held on May 29 & 30, from noon-5pm each day at Mexico Point Park.

The weather was glorious for the first time since its inception five years ago.

Curtis Waterman of Corn Bred at 2009 Native Circle

Curtis Waterman of Corn Bred huddled under a blanket while waiting to perform in 2009

“It was a ‘little’ chilly last year,” Curtis Waterman of Corn Bred told the crowd on Sunday afternoon.

What an understatement. Last year we froze our butts off. It barely reached 55, the clouds blanketed the sky, and the wind whipped up waves on the shores of Lake Ontario. This year we had bright sun shine, temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s, and a gentle breeze. I got a great tan from two days in the sun!

The festival successfully expanded to two days while remaining *FREE* to the public.

We had approximately 750 people attend over the weekend, tripling the number of attendees over last year’s one day event!

  • Ten hours of performances, storytelling, and presentations
  • The youngest attendee was six months old; the oldest was 91
  • Over 15 CDs and numerous arts & craft items were raffled off over the course of the two days
  • The children loved the arts and craft activities which included painting “spirit rocks” and making Native American bracelets
  • People came from all over Central New York to listen and learn, some even got up and danced
  • The number of vendors doubled
  • Phone calls have come from as far away as Connecticut, Florida, and California from performers wanting to be a part of next year’s event.

“The energy was incredible. It was a peaceful, upbeat, relaxed, inclusive atmosphere,” said Mary Gillen, one of the presenters.

The high-level, talented performers and presenters included:

  • Corn Bred
  • The Thunder Hawk Singers
  • Owl & Dove, formerly Sacred Winds
  • The Storytellers
  • Gypsy Red
  • Nancy Kaiser’s Wild Spring Edibles
  • Laura K. Vannah’s “Totem Spirits” workshop
  • Mary Gillen’s “Reiki for Animals & People” presentation
  • The People of the Standing Stone Dancers from the Oneida Nation

Laura K. Vannah and all the performers closed each day with Vannah’s signature song, Cherokee Amazing Grace.

On Sunday, when Laura looked out at the crowd gathered for this powerful closing song, saw the community that was gathered in front of the stage, the hearts that were opened, and people singing along, tears sprang to her eyes.

After almost having made the agonizing decision to cancel this festival, I feel such gratitude for everyone who made this years festival possible! Thank you!

Laura K. Vannah, Founder & Executive Producer

The Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival is poised to continue growing.

The 2011 Festival is scheduled for May 28 & 29.

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