PARK HILL – Visitors to the 2019 Cherokee National Holiday could find authentic Native American art under the shade of the Cherokee Heritage Center’s trees Friday-Sunday.

The art and vendor fair and other attractions drew over 6,000 people by Saturday afternoon, and the line entering was in constant motion.

Sue and Tom Richardson from Collinsville had already visited the One Fire Field for the activities there and were enjoying an Indian taco and caramel apples at a shady picnic table outside the Heritage Center.

“We haven’t been here in years. We used to bring our girls,” said Sue.

Except for tours to Diligwa, the fair, children’s activities, and museum and gallery were free to enter.

Diligwa is a reproduction of a 1710 Cherokee village, and visitors are lead by a guide through 14 stations, learning about Cherokee life, council, culture, housing, sports, and more. Demonstrators on site can be seen playing stickball, flintknapping, basket-making, and engaging in other practices. The cost was $5 per person.

Around 100 vendors were set up in a grove of trees. All were members of federally recognized tribes, and had agreed to have an emphasis on hand-crafted goods.

Virginia Crow, Cherokee Nation, was a vendor for the sixth year. She specializes in hand-sewn clothes for dolls.

“I’m probably the only one who makes tear dresses for 18-inch dolls,” said Crow. “Thousands of people come here for the holiday. It’s good for the town.”

From clothing to jewelry to painting, almost anything could be found. Mark French, Cherokee, said he had been coming to Holiday all his life. He found it a unique opportunity at the Heritage Center to gauge interest in an “alternative history” movie he has in pre-production, “American Dreamcatcher.”

“It’s based on the great American dream, even though it didn’t work out that way for the Native Americas,” said French of Tahlequah. “The tenure of a culture’s strength is its longevity.”

Inside, the Cherokee National Museum features the Trail of Tears exhibit, an art gallery, a gift shop, and more. The Cherokee Homecoming Art Show and Sale was open in the gallery.

Tonia Hogner-Weavel, who won Best of Show, was volunteering.

“Today was beautiful. The weather was great,” she said. “There were a lot of visitors at the Heritage Center.”

The art show hangs until Sept. 21.

On Saturday, free children’s activities were available in Adams Corner Rural Village, where life for Cherokees in the 1890s is depicted. The seven buildings show a community with a school, houses, a church, and a smokehouse. Take-and-make kits could be purchased.

Traci Sorell, Cherokee, gave readings of her new children’s book, “At the Mountain’s Base” in Adams Corner, and signed copies inside the museum. She said a lot of people had been through Saturday.

Callie Chunestudy, museum curator, said Sorell consulted CHC staff while developing her book, which focuses on family, military, weaving, and strength.

Chunestudy helped lead the “print action” station where visitors could choose which original artwork they wanted a print of and watch it be screen printed. With a continuous flow of people interested, the station stayed open longer than scheduled, as did Sorell’s book signing. Her books were available in the gift shop, and she ran out of bookmarks.

Check it out

Opened in 1967, the Cherokee Heritage Center is on 44 wooded acres and is managed by the Cherokee National Historical Society. Through Oct. 31, the Cherokee Heritage Center is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday. The Center is closed on Mondays Nov. 1-April 30.

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