BROOKSVILLE — It is a fast-paced dance that requires a great deal of strength and stamina. The regalia is flashy, with bright colors, and includes feather bustles.
Aptly named the "fancy dance," the Native American men's dance competition was created almost a century ago by native tribes as a way to preserve their culture. Today, the dance is quite popular at powwows across the nation.
The excitement of the men's fancy dance competition will make its way to Hernando County this weekend as part of this year's Brooksville Native American Festival.
"It is a modern Native American dance performed by the tribal men," said event organizer Mary Kirkconnell, who also owns Peace Tree Trading Post in Brooksville.
Along with the competition, this weekend's festival will feature music, dance, primitive skills demonstrations and more than 35 vendors selling Native American and Native American-inspired arts and crafts. There also will be unique and creative activities for children.
Visitors will have an opportunity to see eastern and western encampments, and nosh on native foods such as Indian tacos, buffalo burgers and fry bread.
The men's fancy dance competition is among the new features at this year's event, and will include a $1,000 prize for the winner.
"Fancy dance is quite exciting," said Paul DeLuna, Kirkconnell's partner and event co-organizer. "It's a very specialized dance that we hope will bring out some of the best dancers in the Southeast."
Also new to this year's fest will be the Iron Horse Dancers and Drummers, a multitribal group from Oklahoma that offers educational performances in various dance styles; the Nahui Ollin Aztec Dancers, who perform ancient ceremonial dances of Mexico, including fire dances; and members of the Ulali Project, a world-renowned Native American women's a cappella group.
"We are committed to give something different each year," Kirkconnell said.
Returning this year will be the Big Mountain Family, headed by Little Big Mountain, a popular group presenting various native dance styles.
Also, RV and tent camping will be available, giving visitors an option of staying the day or spending the weekend.
Not only does the family-friendly festival have educational appeal; DeLuna, who is of Apache descent, said it gives visitors a connection to Native American culture.
"It is a reflection of a simpler time," he said. "People like how (Native Americans) lived. They lived off the land and respected the earth."