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Intertribal celebration: Native American groups celebrate culture at Hart Park

Posted: September 25, 2010 8:28 p.m.
Updated: September 26, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Ray Rivera, of San Fernando, wears a bustle made from eagle feathers as he takes part in an intertribal dance at the 17th annual Pow Wow and Native American Craft Fair on Saturday at William S. Hart Park in Newhall.

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A heat wave and a tough economy apparently kept scores of people from the 17th Annual Pow Wow and Native
American Craft Fair this year, according to several vendors interviewed.

While hundreds of visitors showed up at William S. Hart Park in Newhall on Saturday for the opening day of the two-day event celebrating Native American culture, returning vendors said they experienced less customer traffic this year compared to last.

“It’s the heat,” said Gaye Sailer who sat in the shade of her craft tent with husband, Ed, and son Jake.

“It’s the economy,” said her husband.

Gaye felt compelled to agree.

“People are carrying in their own food, carrying in their own water,” she said. “And, look over there, even the food vendors have no lines. There’s the bottom line for you.”

She was right.

It was noon, and there were no food lineups.

“When they’re not buying the food, that tells the story,” she said, noting the temperature midday was 103 degrees.

“Last time I was here, it was wall-to-wall people,” Ed Sailer said.

Not this year.

While comparing this year to previous Pow Wow trips, neither of the Sailers had to get up out of their chairs to help customers.

A few people stopped at Gaye Sailer’s Adept Creations booth and inspected her crafts and jewelry, but there were no sales in that time.

But despite the heat and the sporadic sales, Gaye Sailer added: “I’m always happy to come to these.”

In the shade across the event’s main thoroughfare, Peggy Ronning, who works for the California State Parks and is curator of the Antelope Valley Indian Museum, clicks a small handheld device.

“No. 103,” she said. “We’ve talked to 103 people so far today.”

She tells them about some of her museum’s artifacts on display at the Pow Wow, including her most popular item: a traditional clay “acorn grinder” that passing children are invited to try.

She also had traditional rattles — including one made by the Maidu Tribe out of caterpillar cocoons — and clackers that people enjoyed playing, she said.

A steady, more pronounced drumming was heard coming from behind her tent as dancers of Native American groups dressed in colorful, traditional garb of arm-length feathers and heavy necklaces, all taking part in the “Grand Entry” performance, all suffering the heat in full-length costumes.

Deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in Santa Clarita kept the air conditioners running in their cruisers.

Everywhere people fanned themselves. One man was seen pouring water over his head.

“They’ll come when it starts to cool off,” said Native Click vendor Marlie Robles.

Billia Pass sat in the shade of her Grey Mare craft tent talking with her friend, fellow vendor Linda Hitsman.

In front of her on the table were intricately crafted designs, but no customers.

“I’m at this booth, but our booth is over there, that should tell you something,” said Hitsman, who runs the Predators Unlimited tent with her husband, Jim.

Hollowed-out turtle shells, fox tails, elk hides, stark white bones piled in a basket are all unique merchandise that still pulls in the curious as they walk by — if they walk by.

The annual Pow Wow remains a unique showcase of Native American culture featuring traditional art, music, dance and cuisine.

Some of the handmade crafts are seen only at other native venues and nowhere else.

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