Cama-i Dance Festival coming to Bethel

by Angela Denning-Barnes on March 19, 2013

Camai dancers courtesy of bethelarts.com

Camai dancers courtesy of bethelarts.com

The largest dance festival in the region is happening this coming weekend in Bethel. The annual Cama-I Dance Festival will take place at the Bethel High School Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. The theme this year is “Piciryaraput Kayuput-Our Culture, Our Strength.” It is being dedicated to Paniyagaq Neva Rivers of Hooper Bay. The Living Treasure was chosen by the village of Nightmute and is Cingyutan Albertina Dull.

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There are fliers about the festival hanging all over Bethel. You can also find the weekend’s schedule on-line at bethelarts.com. Doors will open at 5 p.m. Friday with dancing starting at 5:30 in the gym. Dancing runs until midnight on Friday. On Saturday, the festival goes from 11:30 a.m. until midnight. on Sunday, it goes from 12:30 p.m. until 9 p.m.

There will be Native crafts tables and informational tables filling the high school lobby and classrooms throughout the weekend. To reserve a table, you should call Minnie Sallison-Fritts at 543-1835.

There is also a Native foods dinner happening Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. starting with Elders. That happens at the District Office building near the high school.

Linda Curda, long-time festival coordinator, says food donations are always welcome.

“We need donations of meat and game such as caribou, moose, beaver, fish, fowl, any Yup’ik foods, anything you’d like to donate,” Curda said. “If you’ve prepared it, that would be wonderful. Put it in a pot with your name on it. But also if you have food that we could cook, you can just thaw it, please clean it, so that it’s ready to be cooked. And we would be delighted to get donations.”

Food donations can be dropped off at the LKSD district office kitchen after 10 a.m. Saturday.

Curda says it wasn’t planned for this year’s festival to fall during Bethel’s state basketball tournament in Anchorage. She says that part has been unavoidable.

“Everyone asks us how do we choose the dates for Cama-i,” Curda said. “We don’t.”

Curda says it’s very complicated. Because of the large size of the festival, the only place to hold it is at the high school. The high school has all sorts of activities that it must work around like the small schools basketball tournament, state regionals, state finals, Spring break, and Spring testing at the school. This year it got even more complicated when the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage—where state basketball happens—had a scheduling conflict with hockey which changed the state basketball dates.

Curda says local basketball fans won’t be left out.

“During the festival I’m sure we’ll be streaming the game through the school and keeping everyone abreast of how the game is going,” she said.

Volunteers are always needed for the festival for things like admissions, concessions, and ushers—the festival relies on hundreds of volunteers every year. All volunteers working for two hours get free admission to the festival for the day.

To volunteer, call Betsy at 543-1649. Leave a message if there is no answer.

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