If you drive to O’Leno State Park this weekend, you will find yourself stepping into North Florida’s past.
This year is the 17th annual Alligator Warrior Festival celebrating the early 1800’s. This is a time when Lake City was simply known as Alligator, Florida.
The festival is run by a non profit that aims to entertain and educate, something organizers feel is most important for the younger crowd.
“Because of the way school systems are and they’re cutting back… fourth graders are the only ones who get Florida history. They don’t get it in third grade, fifth grade they start U.S. history, and that’s the last they will hear about this time frame that was so important in Florida’s history.” said Douglas Vasco, president of the Alligator Warrior Festival.
Those who attend will find the history lessons go far beyond Florida.
The Alligator Festival brings Native Americans from all over the country, including states like South Dakota.
At the park they will even have teepees from the plains tribe known as the Lakota Nation.
This festival is part of a series of similar festivals throughout the United States known as the pow wow circuit, and they are part of a much older tradition.
“The white man was not allowed into the pow wows. It was strictly native people, but a lot of the elders and the story tellers decided the only way we could start teaching the white man how we lived was actually inviting them to the pow wows, and that’s why they started,” said Running Bear, of the Lakota tribe.
The Alligator Warrior Festival drew in nearly 3,000 visitors last year who came to learn the history of the Native American tribes in the area.
This will continue from Friday through Sunday. Entrance is $5.