Brighton Seminole Field Day underway this weekend in Glades County

BRIGHTON — Celebrating 80 years, the Brighton Field Day Festival & Rodeo will take place at the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena on the Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation in Glades County this weekend through Sunday, Feb. 18.

Many Seminole favorites will return, including PRCA Rodeo, Professional Bull Riders, Native American dancing, clothing contests, American Indian arts and crafts, and native foods. Attendees may also visit the Seminole Culture Camp where a living Seminole Indian Village will be on display.

Entertainment will include a Saturday evening concert by country rapper, singer and songwriter Colt Ford. A former professional golfer, Ford released his sixth album last May, titled “Love Hope Faith,” which includes the single “4 Lane Gone.” His concert will be Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The weekend will also feature native dance troupes from all over the United States, storytelling, alligator wrestling and a snake show.

The parade on Saturday will include members of Florida State University’s marching band, along with the FSU mascot, Osceola, aboard Renegade.

Attendees can visit the sponsor-driven Pro Rodeo Fan Zone on the way into the arena. The rodeo grounds will have a variety of crafts and food vendors for all to enjoy.
The tradition of the Brighton Seminole Field Day started with the establishment of the first Brighton Indian Day School, according to the records of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

Mr. and Mrs. Boehmer arrived at the Brighton Reservation in 1938. William Boehmer had been hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as the teacher at the new school. Edith Boehmer’s official title was “school housekeeper.” She also assisted her husband with teaching and worked on other community projects. Mrs. Boehmer helped to establish the Seminole Arts Guild on the Brighton Reservation.

The Boehmers organized the first Brighton Seminole Field Day as a day of fun in November 1938. Tribal members from other Florida reservations were invited to come and compete in events such as traditional clothing contests, cooking contests, footraces and horse races. Okeechobee-area merchants donated prizes that were given away in drawings.

The school was built as a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Indian Division, and officially opened Jan. 9, 1939. At the Brighton Indian Day School, students were taught English, math and sciences as well as poultry husbandry, gardening, homemaking and cattle raising.

Enrollment was small in the beginning and attendance was spotty, but by 1954 when the school closed, they had 100 percent enrollment and about 95 percent attendance.
Besides working as the schoolteacher and on community development projects, Mr. Boehmer was a hobby photographer.

While working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Brighton Reservation (1938-66), Mr. Boehmer took more than a thousand photographs documenting the Seminoles.

The original negatives and a set of 8×10 prints are held by the National Anthropological Archives of the Smithsonian Institution. Another set of the 8×10 prints are held in the archives of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

While the festival began as a gathering of members of the Seminole Tribe, the celebration grew to include other tribes from North America, with admission open to the public.
On Saturday, gates open at 8:30 a.m., with activities starting at 9. A PRCA Rodeo will take place Saturday at 3 p.m.

On Sunday, Feb. 18, gates open at 9 a.m. and activities begin at 10. A professional bull riding competition will be Sunday at 10 a.m.

The Fred Smith Rodeo Arena is located at 500 Harney Pond Road, off State Road 721 in Glades County. From Okeechobee, take State Road 70 west to SR 721, turn south on SR 721, then turn right on Harney Pond Road and travel 1 mile to Fred Smith Arena; or, take State Road 78 west to SR 721 and turn north on SR 721, then left on Harney Pond Road.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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