“Return to Your Home” ~ THANK YOU for making this year’s festival the BEST!

by Laura K. Vannah on June 6, 2011

The 4th Native Circle Touch the Earth Festival was an amazing jam-packed weekend of award-winning Native American music, storytelling, interactive cultural education, children’s activities and more!

Michael Aaron Gallagher opened the festival on Saturday by sharing his Syracuse Poster Project haiku.

Return to Your Home ~ Syracuse Poster Project

To purchase a copy of this poster visit www.posterproject.org

These words are not my own. They are ours. They are a message of hope and celebration. They are a reminder of our heritage and they represent the promise of new traditions that will become our legacy. Today, as each of us touches the earth, remember your homeland, celebrate your diversity, and together we will build a better tomorrow, for us all.

~ Michael Aaron Gallagher

It was a perfect way to kick things off and set the tone for the weekend by so accurately and passionately modeling the festival’s message of unity through diversity.

Not only has our festival survived the economic downturn, we expanded our platform and brought in numerous award-winning Native American Artists from across the country.

Even the weather cooperated when every sign said it wasn’t going to! It stopped raining Saturday morning and didn’t start again until 7pm Sunday night. We even had breaks of sunshine throughout the weekend.

A thousand people, some from as from as far away as Columbus Ohio, Stoughton Massachusetts, New Smyrna Beach Florida, and Southern Ontario, came to experience the talented inspiring Native American artists we bring to our stage.

Saturday's crowd enjoying Corn-Bred

Saturday's crowd enjoying Corn-Bred

Mexico Point Park was filled to overflowing and, for the first time in five years, we had parking problems. That’s what Morgan and I get for setting such a strong intention. Cars were lined up along Mexico Point Drive for at least a half mile with every spare spot filled repeatedly throughout the weekend.

I was more afraid we were going to be rained out than I was about parking issues. A ginormous, heartfelt “thank you” goes out to our four parking attendants: Clark Stan, Patrick Manion, Brian Goldblatt, and Bill Symmons. You guys kept it ALL under control!

It was great to be able to introduce you to newcomer Jonny Lipford and bring back all the past favorites including Owl & Dove, The Storytellers, and The Thunder Hawk Singers.

CornBred delighted the audience for their third year in a row. 20 vendors were on hand selling a wide variety of items like bead and stone work quadrupling the number from last year.

What a life changing event. The response to the Reiki healing was huge. I am so excited!! It was a gift to us to be able to ‘give back’. ~ Mary Gillen, Owner, Gentle Reiki for People and Animals & 2011 Presenter

People of the Standing Stone Dancers

People of the Standing Stone Dancers from the Oneida Nation ~ Photo Courtesy of Scott Thomas Photography

The People of the Standing Stone Dancers, from the Oneida Nation, not only taught the crowd some of their traditional dancing, but they were actively passing on the tradition to the next generation as three generations gathered on stage to share their culture with the public.

Richard and Leslie LaCrosse’s Native American pre-contact campsite complete with wigwam and Native garb of that era were again a big hit; and Nancy Kaiser again presented her multi-media Wild Spring Edibles demonstration.

In the past five months not only were we able to run our largest campaign to date, but we also garnered the attention and promotional support from numerous media partners.

I’ll have all the links, interviews, and videos on a new Media Page this week just in case you missed them the first time around.

  • The May edition of Today’s CNY Woman magazine ran an article, written by Associate Editor, Michael Aaron Gallagher, about the Festival.
  • Thanks to Mike Ameigh, GM of WRVO, Dave Bullard and Kate Perceval, WRVO interviewed me and then aired the interview on all nine of its regional satellite stations.
  • CKONFM in Akwesasne Mohawk Nation ran promotional spots throughout the month of May.
  • Corn-Bred and I were on WSYR Channel 9’s Bridge Street program on May 24th promoting the festival which numerous individuals said led them to attend.
  • Oswego County Department of Planning and Tourism ran a series of Press Releases about the festival throughout the month of May which were picked up by numerous media outlets.
  • The Post Standard’s Debbie Groom wrote a feature article the Sunday before the festival while Mark Bialczak repeatedly promoted the festival through his blog and Best Bets videos.
  • Kathy Rowe of y94fm took it upon herself to help us by creating and delivering PSA’s for two weeks prior.

Without their help and promotion, there’s no way we would have had 1000 people in attendance over the weekend. AND in the week leading up to and during the festival the website got 1,988 hits!

We even got live coverage of Saturday’s festivities! (GO MORGAN!)

I was talking to a vendor when Morgan came up to me and said, ” Excuse me Laura, I hate to interrupt, but YNN is here and needs an interview.” ( GLUP… “OK.” I told her)


I was joined this year by Michelle Johnson to conclude each day of the festival with Cherokee Amazing Grace. Michelle graced the stage with her American Sign Language Dance Interpretation and added her “voice” to the closing.

Thank You!!! Thank you for letting me be a small part of an extraordinary weekend! ~ Michelle Johnson

Because of this addition, we were able to bring a brand new demographic to the festival, the deaf community of Central New York. I was honored that a few attended for the whole day on Saturday.

Just before Michelle and I were to perform on Saturday, I was informed that John Sardella of Gypsy Red had had a heart attack and was in hospital fighting for his life.

All of the 2011 Native Circle Festival Performers on stage for Cherokee Amazing Grace

All the 2011 Native Circle Festival Performers on stage for Cherokee Amazing Grace

With sadness and shock, all of the performers joined us on stage to lend their hearts and voices in prayer. As we were performing, Curtis Waterman of Corn-Bred stepped up to one of the microphones and added his harmonica to what was already a powerful and emotional closing to Saturday’s events.

Laura, thanks again for having Corn-bred at your event. We are getting more relaxed with the crowd which lets us have more fun with them. It was a shock to hear John Sardella was sick. That’s why I added my harp to the prayer we did for him, tried to give my thoughts through my sound. Thanks again.

~ Curtis Waterman

Cherie, John’s wife, showed up at the festival late Sunday afternoon. She said she needed the break from the hospital and had heard about our prayers for John. She informed me that he was finally stable although not out of the woods.

Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

It certainly was a year of many ‘firsts’ for this festival. I am so honored and grateful for all the support the festival has been blessed with this year.

To all of our generous sponsors – THANK YOU!

Oswego County Federal Credit Union, Town of Mexico, Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning, All Seasons Inn, Mitchell Printing, Dynegy Inc. – Independence Station, Greater Mexico Chamber of Commerce, Margaret Clerkin of the Pulaski Chamber, Price Chopper Supermarkets, Wegmans, Stewarts Shops, Oswego Valley Insurance Agency, Oswego County Mutual Insurance Co., Burritt Motors, Port Lodge Motel, KeyBank, Oswego Arts Collaborative, PathFinder Bank, Daddy Ed’s Restaurant, Mexicali Rose, Performance Uniforms, Grist Mill Restaurant, Yellow Rose Campground, Steve’s Body Shop, Eastern Shore Associates, Computer Accounting Services, The Bake Shop Eatery, Gentle Reiki for People & Animals, Send-Out-Cards, Brophy Services Inc., and numerous individuals.

Promotional support was provided by Oswego County Tourism, Today’s CNY Woman Magazine, WRVO, 9WSYR’s Bridge Street, y94fm, YNN, CKONfm, The Post Standard, PallTimes, NorthCountry Radio, Oswego County Today, ValleyNews, and ILoveNY.

To all of our volunteers – YOU ROCK!

Parking Attendants: Clark Stan, Patrick Manion, Brian Goldblatt, & Bill Symons

Welcome Booth: Jim & Brenda Hotchkiss, Jack & Allie Proud, Don Goodness, Jeannie West and her children

Native Circle Booth: Linda Goodness and Elizabeth Manion

Videographer: Tom Fazzio

Devin Hedderig

Children’s Area:
Cindy Hedderig

To the Friends of Mexico Point Park

- none of this would be possible without your gracious donation of such a spectacular venue!

To my friend and “partner in crime”, Morgan Kerr

- no words can describe what you’ve done to help me and this festival grow. I swear I’m adding ones and commas to those zeros!!!!! We really are the “Dynamic Duo”!

And of course a GARGANTUAN thank you to ALL of the performers and presenters!!! What an honor it is to have you at the festival.

There are pictures and a great video (thanks Morgan) on the Facebook page. So make sure you “Like” the Native Circle Facebook page and “Follow” the Native Circle on Twitter

We’ll have the LIVE CD and DVD ready for you shortly. Click here if you want to make sure you get your copy now.

If you have photos you’d like us to post, just email us.

I’d LOVE to hear what you thought about the festival. Post a comment below or  Send us a “Rave Review”. I’ll be sure to personally respond to all of them.

Lastly, thank YOU! I hope you came away from this festival with a deeper appreciation of the diversity of Native American Arts & Culture, a deeper connection to yourself and others, and a shared understanding of our collective roots.

Not to mention having a heck-of-a-good time!

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