American Indian music and culture, once part of the fabric of Weedon Island, made a comeback last weekend.
Stories, arts and crafts and the peaceful sounds of indigenous flute music drew enthusiasts and the curious to the eighth annual Heart's Breath Flute Extravaganza on Friday and Saturday.
"The event came to us about five years ago," said Phyllis Kolianos, program coordinator for Weedon Island Preserve and Natural History Center. The history center is "perfect for this family event that reaches the entire span of the age ranges."
More than 100 people from across the Tampa Bay area arrived at the cultural center on Friday evening to hear the Concert of Creative Sounds. Some sat with their eyes closed. Some rocked in their seats. Others sat wide-eyed, watching the musicians.
"This is soul music," said Dock Green Silverhawk, who said he is part Creek and part Cherokee Indian. "This event is very spiritual. When you come you don't see bad attitudes, you feel the friendship and the peace."
The mood was also one of sharing. Enthusiasts and the curious got to hear indigenous music and attend workshops.
Charlie Cox not only performed, but educated children and adults in workshops on indigenous flute-playing basics.
"I've taught people from 8 to 85 to play flute," said Cox, 54, of Pinellas Park. "In workshops, I talk about the style of flutes, finger placement and how to breathe. I also teach bonus flourishes. They're fun to learn when someone is just starting to play, and it keeps them from getting frustrated and bored."
Saturday included more workshops and music, along with vendors selling everything from flutes and flute bags to horse hair earrings and leather clothing. Money from a silent auction was split in support of the Weedon Island Preserve and the upcoming Silverhawk Native American Flute Gathering in October.
Craig Noss, who has participated in Heart's Breath Flute Extravaganza since it first came to Weedon Island, began making flutes after hearing an indigenous flute concert. His interest turned into an art form.
"I started by making a bamboo flute," Noss said. "My handmade flutes are created out of almost any wood, from cedar to exotics from Australia and Southeast Asia."
Betty Denehy of Tampa owns several flutes. She loves Weedon Island and performing in such a sacred place.
"This is where Native Americans lived," said Denehy, 69. "I'm sure they hear us playing."
Kandee McLain wanted to share the extravaganza with her grandchildren. At one concert, 2-year-old Madison swayed in her chair.
"The drumming's like a mother's heartbeat," said McLain, 57, of St. Petersburg. "The sound of the flute carries you away to another place."
While the extravaganza took place inside the air-conditioned center, flute music and the rhythm of the drums floated out as people came and went.
'"To have the music here on this site renews the spirit and vitality of the area,'' Kolianos said. "Weedon Island Preserve is a significant American-Indian site and this event brings back flute playing as what it must have been 1,000 years ago."