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Celebrating Culture & Native America

Published 09/25/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 09/25/2013 10:51 AM

By Meredith Crawford
Valley Courier

Fifth Hammonassett Festival is Oct. 5 & 6

Native American smudging ceremony. Exotic pets and live reptiles. Environmental and museum exhibits. Dance troupes, drumming, and music. If that sounds like something for everyone, that's because the Hammonassett Festival 2013 is just that-two full days of fun, learning, and cultural celebration set at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison on Saturday, Oct. 5 and Sunday, Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Co-created by Dale Carson and Don Rankin and produced and hosted by the non-profit Friends of Hammonasset, the fifth Hammonassett Festival coincides this year with the 100th anniversary of Connecticut's state parks. The festival will start on Saturday and Sunday morning at 10:15 a.m. with a Native American opening blessing and smudging ceremony.

"You can't go to other places and see that sort of thing. It brings you back down home to Hammonasset, where the Indians actually lived; it's bringing you back to nature and Native America," says festival publicist Susie Capezzone of the ceremony.

In keeping with the theme "Celebrating Nature and Native America," the festival aims to raise awareness of Native American culture and history and to educate festival-goers about the environment. To this end, there will be a Discovery Tent filled with exhibitors and presentations, open both days. Local wildlife rehabilitators from A Place Called Hope will present live raptor shows on Saturday and Sunday, as well as display live bird exhibits. Participating museums and organizations in the Discovery Tent will include Meigs Point Nature Center, Denison Pequotsepos, and Ansonia Nature Center, all of which will have live creature exhibits and deliver presentations. Also present will be Yale Peabody Museum, the Museum of Natural History at the University of Connecticut, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Institute of American Indian Studies, the Kellogg Environmental Center, the Shoreline Outdoor Education Center, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxillary, Trout Unlimited, Friends of the Office of State Archaeology, Watershed on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, Shoreline Greenway Trail, and others.

Sports enthusiasts won't want to miss the World Atatl Championships, taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday on the festival grounds near the salt marsh. Another hands-on activity taking place on both days-from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.-is fly casting. There will also be an exhibit on the sport.

This year, organizers are particularly excited about the festival's featured performers: Erin Meeches Native Nations Dance Troupe. Billed as an "especially joyful event," the troupe's performance will provide "an informative variety of Native American dancing and drumming" at noon and at 3:15 p.m. in the concert area on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, be on the lookout for wandering magician/sorcerer Cyril May. Another highlight will be performances by Arvel Bird, a musician whose Native American and Celtic background informs his art.

Arts and crafts vendors-and plenty of food options, including Native American cuisine provided by Sly Fox's Den of Mashpee, Massachusetts-will round out the weekend.

"It's going to be a wonderful weekend for the entire family-from the little kids to Grandma," says Capezzone.

The fifth Hammonassett Festival is on Saturday, Oct. 5 and Sunday, Oct. 6 at Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison. This is a rain-or-shine festival. No pets are permitted. Admission is $5 for the general public; children younger than 10 are admitted for free; parking is free. Proceeds benefit Friends of Hammonasset. The festival is presented by Friends of Hammonasset and is sponsored by Liberty Bank and the Madison Foundation. For more information and to view a full schedule of events and activities, visit www.hammonasset.org.

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