With black-painted lips and a raccoons mask painted over his flashing brown eyes, the head male dancer of the Salmon Festivals pow-wow stood more than 7 feet tall, including his golden eagle feather headdress.
Val Shadowhawk of Modesto is a member of the Cree tribe with some Blackfoot, Missoria and Choctaw in his blood. He said his people wish to be called Pnaci (pronounced pen-ah-cee), meaning descendants of the old ones, rather than Native Americans or Indians, and explained some of the customs and traditions that were on display at the second annual All-Nations Pow-Wow.
This gathering of tribal people from all over the United States, particularly the west, took place in conjunction with the third annual Salmon Festival, held Saturday and Sunday at Lodi Lake Park.
The festival was the brainchild of former Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Dwight Dauber, who died from cancer complications in March. Daubers idea was to bring issues concerning the Mokelumne River and waterways to public awareness, and to work with the East Bay Municipal Utilities District and Woodbridge Irrigation district in educating the public about these resources and their conservation.
Grant Plath, parks program specialist, explained that the culture of the Miwok tribe, originally located between what is now Clements and Lockeford, was intimately tied to the cycles associated with the salmon spawning and run. The river itself feeds into Lodi Lake, so the combination of events seemed to be a natural, said Plath.
This years events featured educational exhibits from the California Waterfowl Association, Department of Fish and Game, East Bay MUD, and the Serpentarium. A popular display was a large aquarium filled with live salmon.
Tyler Johnson, 9, of Valley Oaks Elementary School in Galt, and his friend Anthony Anderson, 8, of Vacaville, found the aquarium and the exhibit featuring live snakes and insects fascinating, but said the best part of the festival was the snatching leftovers from Saturdays barbecue.
This event was held at the edge of the lake, and featured a generous portion of either salmon steak or filet, rice pilaf, pasta, green salad, focaccia bread, and a cold beverage for an $8 fee. Plath said that there were about 20 fish left over, and all would be sold to help with expenses.
Members of many western tribes, including Miwok, Chippewah, Lakotah, Mexica, were present in full costume performing ceremonial and traditional dances. There were even some tiny dancers as young as 3 years old stomping and shaking their feathers by the lake. During many of the songs, spectators were invited to join in the celebration.
The undisputed high point of the festival on Saturday, however, was when News-Sentinel Publisher Marty Weybret was crowned the unanimous winner of the Pig Pucker Contest.
Ever the gentleman, Weybret brought a bright bouquet of flowers for the tiny pink porker. When the moment of truth came, Weybret was hesitant to go lip-to-snout with the pig.
Finally, after dabbing the porcine nose with a baby wipe, the kiss of the year was had.
Weybret received 210 votes to Mayor Steve Manns 53, just nine more than Lt. Richard Dean, school board member, who took third place.
Lodi Parks and Recreation Department recreation supervisor Niki Chiunti said this years festival and pow-wow were a big success and commented that this, along with the Celebration on Central festival which took place on Sunday, shows how eager Lodis residents are to celebrate different cultures and participate in their community.
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