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Powwow focuses attention on Keyser Park

9/8/2011 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

CUYAHOGA FALLS — Visitors to Keyser Park this weekend will get the chance to explore Native American culture as well as learn more about a project to restore historic structures there.

The fourth annual Crooked River All Nation Powwow, taking place Sept. 10-11, is supported in part by the Northampton Historical Society, as well as the city of Cuyahoga Falls.

“Cuyahoga Falls has a rich Native American history, and the Powwow is an ideal way to help educate our residents in its Native American heritage through dancing, singing, religion and tradition,” said Falls Mayor Don Robart.

Founder and organizer Nell Orndorf said the powwow has been a labor of love for her the past few years.

“I started this four years ago to honor my mother and sister because they have both walked on,” said Orndorf, who is Delaware and Blackfoot. “They had planned to do a powwow themselves. They always said if they did a powwow, they would make it an educational powwow. We try to educate the public so our heritage stays alive. So many festivals don’t impress upon the public what their heritage is. If we don’t continue our heritage, our children and our grandchildren aren’t going to know, nor will they care.”

Orndorf said the event also is a way to support the Native American Indian and Veterans Center in Akron. Over the past three years, the event has contributed about $5,000 to the organization, Orndorf said.

Last year’s powwow attracted about 1,500 to Keyser Park, located at 783 W. Bath Road in the Northampton area. This year, Orndorf hopes to have 3,000 visitors to the site, where there will be more than 40 vendors with Native American food and wares.

The event is open both days at 10 a.m., with the Grand Entry at noon and 6 p.m. Sept. 10 and at 1 p.m. Sept. 11. There will be a special commemoration of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at 3 p.m. that day, Orndorf said.

Admission to the powwow is $5 for adults, $3 for children 5-12 and senior citizens, and free for children younger than 5.

The Northampton Historical Society was instrumental in helping to get the powwow off the ground the past few years, Orndorf said. Today the event is self-supporting, but the society is still a sponsor.

The society will be on hand at the event with displays at the farmstead at Keyser Park, which the society aims to restore, according to Dreama Powell, who is the president and treasurer.

Carrie Keyser-Swain sold the property to the city. She died in 1995, Powell said.

“She didn’t want it to be a housing development,” Powell said.

Swain was a founding member of the society and is credited with saving the Old Center Schoolhouse, which served as a meeting place for members until a tornado destroyed it in 1992, according to the Northampton Historical Society website.

The house at the park site was built in 1877 by the Best family and changed hands several times before being purchased by the Keyser family in 1905, according to the website.

In 2007, the society approached city officials and the Parks and Recreation Department with its concept for the farmstead’s revitalization. A cost-feasibility study on the farmhouse was prepared, and the society is moving forward with plans to raise the money to restore the farmstead.

“The house is stable, but we can’t let people go into it,” Powell said. “We now have enough money and hope to contract this fall to get asbestos removed and take off the siding. Then we’ll start working on getting volunteers to get it back into shape.”

The barn at the site is in much better shape, Powell said. Restoration of barns will be the topic at the society’s meeting Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. at Northampton Town Hall, 851 W. Bath Road. The meeting is open to all.

For more details on the powwow, go to www.crookedriverpowwow.com or call Orndorf at 330-929-1963. For more on the Northampton Historical Society, go to www.northamptonhistoricalsociety.com or call Powell at 330-923-6678.

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