National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Making music at the Ashville festival, Blue Ridge Parkway
Annual Ocmulgee Indian Celebration

Description: Since 1990, the annual Ocmulgee Indian Celebration at Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, Georgia has fostered public awareness of the rich heritage of Southeastern American Indians. Ocmulgee National Monument staff works with numerous partners, especially the Ocmulgee National Monument Association, the Ocmulgee National Monument Foundation, and Riverside Ford Motor Company, to coordinate and fund the annual event. The three-day event features a wide variety of traditional and contemporary Native American dancing, music, arts, crafts, storytelling, history, technology, and period encampments provided by American Indians, who present and interpret their own cultures. Though the event focuses on the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole, other American Indian Nations are represented, with participants coming from Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Montana, Arizona, and New York.

The Ocmulgee National Monument Association, Riverside Ford Motor Company, Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission, Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Food Max, and other organizations and individuals provide: volunteer assistance; beverages for students on "School Day;" three lunches and a catered dinner for participants, staff and volunteers; most of the publicity; and more than half of the funds required to cover other expenses. The Bibb County Board of Education, other regional school systems, private schools, and a growing number of home-schoolers transport their 4th grade students to the event as a free educational field trip. Several local high schools provide Junior ROTC cadets to serve as guides and teachers' assistants.

The Ocmulgee National Monument Association originally was the sole financial sponsor of the event, but the program began as a joint venture with the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission. Book sales at the park and the interpretive program fee from the event were used to pay for the succeeding year's event. In 1999, due to poor book sales and a poor turn out for the previous Celebration, they were close to canceling that year's program. A conversation between Superintendent David and John Shoemaker, CEO of Riverside Ford Motor Company, led to the company's involvement to keep the Celebration going.

Shoemaker was a big fan of the NPS. He had been doing short history programs as part of his dealership advertising program for several years where he would do a spot about the park a few times each year. He also attended most of the parks events. However, Riverside Ford Motor Company's main involvement started based on that conversation Superintendent David had at the park with Shoemaker on Earth Day in 1999 when he related the possibility of having to call off the Celebration for that year. Shoemaker felt strongly that they could not let that happen.

A meeting was arranged for the next week. Shoemaker pulled a group of people together, found additional sponsors so that the park was able to hold the festival. As soon as it was over, everyone met together again and began working on the next year. With time to plan, organize and promote, it was the best event ever and continues to gain reputation as one of the top events in the Southeast. The group continues to meet most every month year round.

Since then Shoemaker and the company's involvement has taken off. Their involvement has increased each year allowing the park to do things that had only been dreamed of. The Ford Motor Company contributed greatly to the marketing of the event by underwriting the production of posters, TV and radio ads. They also brought in Food Max as partner to provide the food for the volunteers and participants. Shoemaker also saw the need to form a fundraising group for park needs and helped form the Ocmulgee National Monument Foundation in 2002. The Foundation sponsored concerts during the Celebration bringing in nationally-recognized Native artists Robert Mirabal in 2002, R. Carlos Nakai, and Joanne Shenandoah in 2003. These headliner concerts were not only good fundraisers but also enhanced the visibility of the Celebration. With his community standing, Shoemaker successfully enlisted additional park support from other major players in the community.

Non-federal contributors for the 2003 Ocmulgee Indian Celebration included: the Ocmulgee National Monument Association ($20,183), Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism ($9,000), Riverside Ford Motor Company ($44, 690), Macon, GA ($44,690), Food Max, Macon, GA ($4,736), Ocmulgee National Monument Foundation ($22,980). Total non-federal contributions of $100,591 were a substantial increase from $59,887 of the previous year. The park also received funding from the NPS Challenge Cost Share Program. These funds helped cover the cost of lodging, honoraria, security, tents, portable toilets, trash collection, advertising, publicity, refreshments and miscellaneous expenses. Celebration visitation between 2002 and 2003 increased from 19,000 to 26,000.

The Ocmulgee Indian Celebration (OIC) is the principal ethnographic event of the year at Ocmulgee National Monument. OIC's objectives are to: 1) present a free educational event for all 4th grade classes in the Macon, GA, Metropolitan Reporting Area (MSA); 2) present a modestly priced public educational event for the general public; 3) provide members of Southeastern American Indian tribes, especially those originally associated with the Ocmulgee Old Fields at Macon, GA, an opportunity to return to their "sacred ground" and; 4) promote partnerships within the Middle Georgia community and Ocmulgee National Monument. One major goal is to accurately explain and demonstrate various native cultures to the public in order to dispel commonly held stereotypes. During Friday's "School Day" for 4th grade students, exhibits are also provided by area public service agencies to promote the efforts and contributions of heritage-related organizations, Macon's recycling program, law enforcement, fire fighting and emergency response teams.

Geographic area covered: The 702-acre Monument consists of two units separated by two miles of riverine wetlands along the Ocmulgee River. The Main Unit is adjacent to the city of Macon, Georgia, an urban area with a population of 118,000 and a MSA population of 250,000. The isolated Lamar Mounds and Village Unit can be visited by special permit.

List of partners and relationships: Ocmulgee National Monument, Ocmulgee National Monument Association, Ocmulgee National Monument Foundation, Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission, Riverside Ford Motor Company and Brunos/Food Max, Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Bibb County Board of Education

Accomplishments to date: OIC directly reaches over 5,000 Georgia 4th grade students, with an additional 21,000 or more people attending over the weekend. Almost 300 American Indians from many tribes and states have the opportunity to visit a place held sacred by many people, especially the Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole.

For the past three years, the OIC has been named one of the Top 20 events in the region by the Southeast Tourism Society, and it is now promoted by the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism. The 2004's OIC will continue a 14-year tradition of excellence by again uniting representatives from all five of the Southeast's "Five Civilized Tribes" (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole), who now consider the event an annual Homecoming.

Key success factors: While the celebration was a popular and fairly successful event prior to 1999 it was not changing or growing until the involvement of Riverside Ford. When they came on board, the funding and support for the event greatly increased through the booking of headline acts, and aggressive promotion and marketing of the event. John Shoemaker, CEO of Riverside Ford Motor Company, became personally involved with the park and association to assist in planning, provide new viewpoints and encourage the park to expand its vision and try new approaches. A very strong "can do" and "dare to dream" attitude quickly spread through the park.

Frustrations: The partnerships have not caused any frustrations. The biggest frustration is pulling off this size event with a full time staff of 11 people.

Most important lessons learned to date: Communicate needs and keep searching for more partnership opportunities. If that one conversation with the CEO of Riverside Ford had not taken place, John Shoemaker would not have known the needs of the Celebration. In turn, the Celebration would not have taken the major leaps in the number of partners, quality of programming and number of visitors. Through that initial involvement, the park received assistance from him on numerous other programs and needs.

What would you do differently next time: With the success of the 2003 celebration in both the number and amount of support from the partners plus the high visitation numbers and good comments from them, we would not do anything differently. We are building on that success and are making contacts to bring in more partners.

Suggested resource materials:

For more information:

Name: Jim David
Affiliation: Superintendent, Ocmulgee National Monument
Phone/Fax: 478-752-8257 ext. 11
Email/website: jim_david@nps.gov

Name: John Shoemaker
Affiliation: CEO, Riverside Ford Motor Company
Phone/Fax: 478-464-2903
Email/website: jshoe3@msn.com

Name: Patty Ellis
Affiliation: Business Manager, Ocmulgee National Monument Association
Phone/Fax: 478-752-8257 ext. 14
Email/website:

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising __; Capital Improvements __; Facility Management __; Trails __; Design __; Program Delivery __; Visitor Services _X_; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration __; Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts _X_; Information Services __; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning __; Tourism _X_; Community Relations __;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Jim David, Superintendent Date posted: 4/22/04
Phone: 478-752-8257, ext. 11

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John Shoemaker (CEO, Riverside Ford Dealership) and Barbara Gillespie (Creek Nation National Council Member and storyteller)
Singer-drummer
Creek Nation singers
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