Indian Summer Festival, North America’s largest American Indian festival, celebrates 25 years at Milwaukee’s lakefront Maier Festival Park (Summerfest grounds) from Sept. 9-11. The festival provides an entertaining, fun and educational experience with American Indian traditions joined by exciting national acts.
A number of festival favorites return to celebrate this landmark year. Brule performs Friday and Saturday with their powerful music, stunning showmanship and a cadre of traditional and fancy dancers. Joanne Shenandoah is a Grammy-Award winner that has been described as “the most critically acclaimed Native American singer of our time,” known for blending traditional songs and melodies with Native and contemporary instrumentation. Eagle and Hawk bring their high-energy, interactive concert-style from Canada, hitting the stage with modern rock fused with traditional elements. Nick Hockings educates about Native American cultures, with the caring and compassion that result from his philosophy that there is “only one race – the human race.” Cultural demonstrators return to the front gate area of the festival, where they will showcase traditional skills and answer questions
New features this year include a special 25th Anniversary Opening Ceremony Spectacular at 6 p.m. Friday. The Native American Film Festival presents work by up-andcoming filmmakers from the Native community. The 9-11 Parade on Sunday at 3 p.m. commemorates the 10-year anniversary of that day with an honor guard, veterans, bands and first-responder vehicles.
Other must-see events include the 8th Annual Indian Summer Music Awards (ISMA) that draw some of the best American Indian entertainment from alternative rock to traditional drum and hip hop to flute. The Contest Pow Wow brings unforgettable sights and sounds to the festival with Grand Entry times at 7 p.m. Friday, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. East Meets West explores the contrast between the tribes of the east and those of the west in a lively, interactive format.
A spectacular fireworks display will be held Friday and Saturday evening featuring the grand Torch-lit Canoe Procession. There will be a special 9/11 commemoration on Friday and a festive nod to Indian Summer’s 25th year on Saturday.
Contests that bring crowds to their feet include Indian Summer’s wild (and wildly popular) Fiddle & Jig contest. A Hand Drum Contest follows Sunday’s Pow Wow in the same dance arena.
Entertainment includes contemporary performers Michael Jacobs, Morgan Creek Band, Flying Feather Band, October Soul and much more. Traditional dance troupes include Aztec dancers and a Navajo dance group. Eating is entertainment at summer festivals, and the options here include traditional fare such as Indian tacos, buffalo, venison, turkey, wild rice, corn soup and fry bread with a variety of toppings. “Fun food” finders will discover hot dogs, chili, popcorn, ice cream and much more.
The Village Green is dedicated to ecological and environmental earth stewardship and the Natural Path offers an array of products and opportunities for relaxing massages. The Gathering Place shelters non-profit organizations with Native ties, the Mohican Nation Stockbridge-Munsee gathering area, Veterans Center and displays on historic repatriation. The Tribal Farmers Market will offer specialties from Wisconsin’s tribes and more.
The Circle of Fine Art exhibition displays fine art with American Indian themes, with many of the country’s bestknown American Indian artists displaying works for viewing and for purchase. The Indian Summer Marketplace is one of the most popular areas at the festival. Vendors from throughout the U.S. and Canada offer an array of Native American- inspired crafts, artwork, books, music, pottery, regalia accessories, blankets, jewelry, toys and beads.
The festival is truly family- friendly, since part of the festival grounds are designated a traditional area, where alcohol is not allowed for sale or consumption. Education Day is held on Friday prior to the official opening at 4 p.m. The grounds are only open to school children and their teachers to provide them with a greater understanding of American Indian culture and heritage. Registration is available now.
There are special admission deals for the festival.
Friday, Sept. 9: Free from 4 to 6 p.m., anyone who donates school supplies to be collected by the Milwaukee Indian Education Committee. Sponsored by North Star Mohican Casino. AND free Friday from 4 p.m.-midnight for PANTHERFEST ticket holders.
Sunday, Sept. 11: Free to participants in Dylan’s 5K Run & Walk for Autism with 2011 Run & Walk t-shirt. Sign up with the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin at 414-427-9345 or visit assew@ execpc.com. AND Active military, retired veterans, first responders and law enforcement with I.D. AND From 9:30 to 10 a.m., those attending the 10 a.m. non-denominational Indian Summer Prayer Ceremony. AND “Turn Back the Clock” admission is $6 on Sunday to anyone wearing an Indian Summer T-shirt.
Regular festival hours are 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Ticket prices are $10 (advance), $12 (gate) for adults and children 12 and under are free. Seniors age 60+ will be admitted for $10 at the gate. The Indian Summer office is located at 10809 W. Lincoln Ave., Suite #101, West Allis, WI 53227. For more information, phone 414-604-1000 and visit www.indiansummer.org to follow on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.
Major Presenting Sponsorship support is provided by the Forest County Potawatomi Foundation. Other Title Sponsors are Miller Brewing Company, The Oneida Nation, Looking Glass Productions and North Star Mohican Casino Resort.