Sunflower Festival expected to draw hundreds

Friday event includes cultural, sporting activities

— Around 1,500 people are expected for the May 24 Sunflower Festival at Paschal Sherman Indian School, 169 North End Omak Lake Road.

The festival celebrates Native American culture, but also includes sporting events, an art show and other activities.

It runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Activities at the alcohol- and drug-free event are open to the public.

The festival started in 1971 as a collaboration of Colville tribal elders, Paschal Sherman students and their parents, and Jesuit volunteers, staff member Michelle Matt said.

It began to showcase the gathering of traditional foods, and included root digging and pit cooking of camas, bitterroot and moss, drying of deer meat and preparing of salmon.

Student artwork was displayed and students danced, worked with staff, elders and community members on regalia, and practiced dance styles.

“So, after all these years, we continue to keep Sunflower Festival going,” she said.

Organizers expect 1,500 visitors, including students, parents, community members and elders. Omak, Okanogan, Nespelem, Keller and Grand Coulee school districts usually send groups.

The event gets under way at 8 a.m. with Mass at nearby St. Mary’s Mission, 25 Mission Road.

Mass is an annual event, during which second-grade students receive the sacrament of First Communion. The students, with parental consent, are prepared for the ceremony by Reflection instructors, gifted and talented program teacher Susan Best said.

“There are many community members who attend St. Mary’s Mission services all year (who) look forward to seeing the beautiful children during this service,” she said.

At the school, board elections run from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

A 3-on-3 basketball tournament runs from 9:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Around 25 teams usually turn out.

The Sun Run, with registration at 9:45 a.m., goes along North End Omak Lake Road to the lake and back.

“We average 250 runners,” Matt said.

A fish pond, operated by the Colville Tribal Department of Fish and Wildlife, starts at 10 a.m. Fish that are caught are cleaned and vacuum sealed so students can take them home.

Lunch begins at noon. It’s prepared by the school’s kitchen staff, and includes deer meat, salmon, hot dogs, chips and traditional foods, including roots, berries and moss. Milk and coffee also will be offered.

All-day activities include vendors, and photo and art displays. Raffles, souvenirs, food concessions, jewelry and other cultural items will be for sale.

The Native Youth Art show is open to Native American youth ages 4-20 who live on or near the reservation. It was established in 1989 by Susan Best and the late Karen Sam.

Artwork can include drawing and painting, ceramics and pottery, cultural crafts (beading, weaving, regalia, dream catchers and jewelry), photography, computer and graphic arts, sculpture, fiber art and jewelry, and carving.

A photo display of historical prints dating to the early 1900s is planned. Ladd Studio photos are included, as are more recent one.

“It takes a good day to go through the pictures,” which are both hanging and in albums, Matt said. “All pictures are property of Paschal Sherman Indian School; most historical pictures were owned once by Gonzaga Jesuit Corps.”

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