PEMBROKE — Organizers of the 44th annual Lumbee Homecoming celebration are expecting crowds of up to 30,000 from all over the nation, according to James Hardin, executive director of the Lumbee Regional Development Association.
“It’s a big homecoming for tribal members who have left the area recently and decades ago,” Hardin said.
The annual week-long event, which begins Saturday, was started in 1968 as a way for Lumbees to “renew their sense of heritage and identity as a tribe, and to share that culture with the region,” Hardin said.
Homecoming is open to the public, and people of all races are invited, Hardin said.
“The Lumbee people are a very progressive people,” Hardin said. “Even though we live in modern times, we are still trying to hold on to our culture and identity and heritage. We hope that they would see the pride we have in ourselves as a people and take that with them when they leave.”
Pembroke law enforcement is expecting a crowd of 15,000 for the parade on July 7, Hardin said. This year’s parade will feature patriotic displays to honor the tribe’s 9,000 veterans.
An “All Veterans Patriotism Sky Show” will kick off the parade at 9:45 a.m. The show will feature a performance by the Golden Knights, and Army parachute team. Parachutists will bring down the American Flag to the old town park at the corner of West Third and South Odom streets, Hardin said.
The parade, which starts at 10 a.m., will host the 82nd Airborne Marching Band.
“The patriotism sky show and band is about recognizing the Lumbee tribe’s contribution to the nation through the military conflicts that have occurred throughout the decades,” Hardin said.
Grand marshals of this year’s parade will be James Clifford Dial, who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars and received several medals, including the Purple Heart, and James Bell, a retired educator who has served in Robeson County for 30 years.
The Little Miss, Junior Miss, Senior Ms., Teen & Miss Lumbee pageants are also heavily attended, Hardin said.
Four women will be competing for the title of Miss Lumbee. Contestants are Courtney Lewis, Page Danielle Jones, Takona Lyn Bullard and Victoria E. Bullard.
Teen Miss Lumbee contestants are Ericka Lyndsey Locklear, Erica Marie Cummings, Tyler Dial and Kayla Morgan.
The Teen and Miss Lumbee pageants will begin at 6:30 p.m. on July 6 at Givens Performing Arts Center at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The Little and Junior Miss Pageants will begin Tuesday, also at 6:30 p.m. at GPAC.
The fireworks sky show, scheduled for 9 p.m. at the LRDA complex on July 7, could bring a crowd of 5,000, Hardin said. More than 100 vendors have signed up to be a part of the Lumbee Outdoor Market, which be held at 636 Prospect Road through July 7.
Homecoming will also include the traditional Lumbee games, a car show, golf tournament, outdoor gospel concert and a 5K run, which will honor Agnes Chavis, an educator and activist.
The fourth annual bicycle fun ride, which will kick off Homecoming on Saturday morning, will honor Robert “Bob” Williamson, a retired Navy veteran, Kiwanian and Pembroke councilman, who died in April.