BROOKSVILLE — The mystique and wonder of American Indian culture is strong for descendants of a tribe indigenous to the United States and for those with no genetic link whatsoever.
For some, it is a way to pay homage to the beliefs of their ancestors. For others, the practices and stories of native Americans resonate on a spiritual level.
The allure for culture will be satiated when the annual Brooksville Native American Festival returns this weekend to Florida Classic Park.
The event is expected to draw thousands from throughout Florida and the southeastern U.S. In fact, more than 10,000 people attended last year's festival, nearly double numbers from the inaugural event in 2014. In fact, the local festival was named one of the Southeast Tourism Society's 2017 Top 20 Events.
"Every year it gets a little bigger," said festival co-organizer Paul DeLuna. "So many people come every year because they love it so much."
DeLuna, who is of Apache descent and has traveled the powwow circuit for years, co-founded the event with Mary Kirkconnell, who owned Peace Tree Trading in Brooksville for 15 years (before selling it last year).
"It is exciting," DeLuna said.
This year's festival will include music, dance, primitive demonstrations and other activities. There will be new entertainment, along with some favorite staples.
"We are committed to giving something different each year," DeLuna said.
New this year will be the Red Boyz Dancers and Drummers, a multi-tribe group that provides educational performances of traditional dance styles throughout the country.
"They keep the old traditions alive with their performances," DeLuna said. "They have some championship dancers with them. ... It should be exciting to see."
The festival will feature a new demonstrator, Sandra Brown, from the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina. She will set up a historical encampment and tepee hunting lodge. Emcee Lowery Begaye, who is of Navajo descent, is an award-winning hoop dancer and musician.
Returning this year will be festival favorite Shelley Morningstar, a Cheyenne recording artist. The musician won the Native American Music Festival Awards Artist of the Year in 2016. She will be joined by her husband, Fabian Fontenelle, one of the original members of the American Indian Dance Theater, who brings his traditional Northern Plains-style of dancing, storytelling and drumming.
The Nahui Ollin Aztec Dancers, who were a hit at the 2015 festival, return to perform ancient ceremonial dances of Mexico, including fire dancing.
More than 35 vendors will offer handmade native American and native American-inspired arts and crafts. Native American food vendors will offer authentic staples, such as buffalo burgers and fry bread.
DeLuna said the festival not only has an educational aspect, but provides a connection to Native American culture.
"It is a reflection of a simpler time," he said.