One of our favorite family events is coming up this weekend: the Virginia Indian Festival hosted by Fairfax County Park Authority at Riverbend Park. This has become an annual tradition that stemmed from a spontaneous decision. A few years ago, I heard about this festival and, without knowing much about what to expect, went late in the day. For me, it was as a way to just explore a new park, expose my son to culture and history, and enjoy a nice late-summer day.
What we discovered was that Riverbend Park is in a beautiful setting in Great Falls, the event was of a perfect size, and the festival had great hands-on activities for kids. Our son immediately took a liking to Native American history and culture and this has now become a can’t-miss activity for us. In fact, he often asks why they do this event just once a year! I love that this event has taught him so much about Native Americans and given him a strong appreciation for traditions of long ago, many of which continue today.
Here is what you can expect this Saturday, September 6, at the 2014 Virginia Indian Festival:
Great views and trails: Set in a remote river setting, Riverbend Park has more than 400 acres of forest, meadows, and ponds. Trails include a 2.5 mile portion of the Potomac Heritage Trail linking national and regional parkland. There are many easy walking paths and shaded areas for picnics.
History and culture: The festival features members of eight Native American tribes who will provide storytelling, music and dancing, demonstrations, cultural artifacts, and more. There will be a fishing and hunting village for people to see what life was like for the Riverbend area Indians who lived there long ago. There also will be food and crafts for sale.
Entertainment: Drumming, dancing, and chanting are big parts of this festival and one of our favorite features. Dancers perform in traditional outfits while drummers keep a strong beat in unison. Typically at the end of the performance visitors are invited to join in a group dance.
Hands-on activities: Another of our favorite features is the hands-on activity. Kids can try their hands at archery, use traditional tools, or even help build a dugout canoe: each year the same giant log is brought out and spectators help to slowly but surely make what will one day be a canoe.
With so much to do, you might think this is a huge festival, but it’s not. All activities are concentrated in the same area so you get to see it all without having to walk too much. The event is popular so parking will fill up early in the day, but in the past there have been shuttles to bring you closer to the action (I don’t have details about this yet for this year). Admission is $5 per person; the event is from 10 am to 3 pm. Riverbend Park is at 8700 Potomac Hills Street in Great Falls,