Festival celebrates Native American culture

In Chillicothe, history is not contained to museums and historic buildings. Locals breathe life into the past every Memorial Day weekend with the Feast of the Flowering Moon celebration. The annual event highlights the region's connection to early Native American tribes.

The free festival focuses on dancing, said Christy Throckmorton, who serves as treasurer of the nonprofit that sponsors the event. Attendees gain a better understanding of Native American customs and traditions, she said.

Last year, representatives from 14 different tribes came to the four-day event. “We want to make sure the Native American culture is still thriving to this day,” she said. “We want to keep that history alive.”

Chillicothe is a Shawnee word. The city, located about 50 miles south of Columbus, was home to Hopewell people and later the Shawnee, who are believed to be their descendants. Such tribes inhabited the region for thousands of years prior to Europeans' arrival. The Hopewell built many mounds, which were used for feasts, funerals and rites of passage, and remain there today.

The festival was started in 1984 to draw attention to Tecumseh!, an outdoor drama staged in Chillicothe that tells the story of its namesake, a great Shawnee leader. Today, the Feast of the Flowering Moon, which is held at Yoctangee Park, operates independently.

In addition to performances by Native American dancers and drummers, visitors can experience a mountain man encampment. Participants dressed in period costumes will demonstrate early trades such as woodcarving and blacksmithing, Throckmorton said. Other activities include carnival rides, an arts and crafts show, musical performances and the Ross County Idol contest.

Given the event's timing, the city's Memorial Day parade travels through the festival, Throckmorton said, so organizers and performers take time to honor local veterans.

Families are encouraged to come with children of all ages, she said. “There are things to do and there are things to see, and lots of food and rides.”