PEMBROKE — James Hardin, executive director of the Lumbee Regional Development Association, always looks forward to the Lumbee Tribe’s annual homecoming.
“It’s always exciting for all of us,” said Hardin, whose agency is the primary sponsor of the event that each summer draws thousands from across the country to Pembroke for a week-long celebration of Lumbee culture and heritage. “But it’s stressful to get everything organized. The planning for homecoming starts in January and February.”
This year’s homecoming is the 48th and runs from Friday until July 2. It kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday with the fourth annual Julian T. Pierce Memorial Art Dinner held at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke Annex.
Events continue at 6:30 a.m. Saturday with Pembroke’s eighth Bicycle Fun Ride beginning at the LRDA office complex and traveling to the Robeson County Department of Social Services office and back. Sponsored by the Pembroke Kiwanis Club, this year’s 20-mile ride is in honor of Joel Garth Locklear Sr.
Saturday’s other events include a golf tournament at Pinecrest Country Club and the Lumbee Veterans Military Ball beginning at 6 p.m. at Porter Plaza.
According to Hardin, Lumbee Homecoming continues to serve its original purpose of instilling pride and teaching tribal members about their culture, especially the tribe’s young people.
“Our young people need to know who we are as a people and community,” Hardin said. “We are as proud a people as any other ethnic group … We need to keep our traditions alive so we can pass them on to our children.”
Hardin said that he expects more than 30,000 Lumbees will be in Pembroke during the week visiting with family and participating in the variety of homecoming events. The parade, to be held July 2, is always the event that draws the largest crowd, with sometimes as many as 20,000 spectators, he said.
Pageants are another big crowd-pleaser, according to Hardin. He said this year’s Miss Lumbee Pageant, to be held July 1, and the Little Miss Lumbee Pageant, to be held Tuesday, are already sold out.
“Tickets for the Miss Lumbee Pageant went on sale on June 1 and sold out in one day,” Hardin said
The pageants are all being held at the Givens Arts Center on the UNCP campus. This year’s contestants are:
— Miss Lumbee (July 1): Kayla Jean Oxendine; Chasity Chavis; and Lindsey Kristian Oxendine.
— Teen Miss Lumbee(July 1): Ciene Raine Fedor; Alaina Faith Malcolm; Kenda Brooke Hunt; and Josie Elizabeth Selles.
— Junior Miss Lumbee (Tuesday): Celeste Deanna Carter; Braydann Orinda Revels; Kira Paige Hunt; Haylee Alarria Jacobs; and Kaloni Skye Walton.
— Little Miss Lumbee (Tuesday) : Jayla Nicol Locklear; Deanna Nicole Rogers; Londyn Mackenzy Clark; Kamryn Paige Locklear; and Laniya Rayne Harris.
In addition, the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina is holding a Miss Senior Lumbee Pageant on Monday at Robeson Community College. All of the other pageants are sponsored by the LRDA.
On Sunday, wrestling championships will be held at UNCP, a Farewell Tea will be held at Berea Baptist Church, and a gospel sing will be held at Bear Swamp Baptist Church.
Monday through July 2, food vendors and arts and crafts of all kinds will be found at the Outdoor Lumbee Market on Prospect Road.
Hardin said Tuesday’s Elders Luncheon is being dedicated to Lumbee military veterans. The luncheon begins at noon at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center.
An important event to local Lumbees will be Wednesday’s dedication of the Pembroke Town Memorial Park at Third Street in honor of the late Milton R. Hunt, longtime mayor of Pembroke and past chairman of the Lumbee Tribe. The dedication will be from 4 to 6 p.m.
The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina will hold a cookout and open house July 1 at the tribal complex on N.C. 711 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tribal chairman Harvey Godwin will deliver his State of the Tribe Address at noon.
But the biggest day of homecoming, according to Hardin, will be July 2. The events kick off at 7:15 a.m. with a 5K run and fun walk sponsored by the Pembroke Kiwanis Club. The race starts at the Southeastern Fitness Center on West Third Street and will honor former Congressman Mike McIntyre and his efforts toward full federal recognition for the tribe. Following the race, a ceremony will be held honoring McIntyre at 1 p.m. in the Annex Building at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The ceremony is open to the public and free to attend.
The popular parade begins at 10 a.m. that day, followed by a powwow beginning at noon on the quad at UNCP. The week-long celebration closes out with an outdoor gospel concert beginning at 6 p.m. at the LRDA office complex, followed by a fireworks show at 9 p.m.
“I hope we have some great cool weather,” Hardin said. “If we do, we will have even more people attending our outdoor events this year than we have had in the past.”
Staff writer Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.