PEMBROKE — In its 49th year, Lumbee Homecoming continues to celebrate heritage, culture and community — and it continues to get bigger.
The celebration now spans two weeks, beginning Friday with the rebirth of “Strike at the Wind!” and ending explosively on July 8 with fireworks, and is loaded with activities of all types that are spread around town and on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Most of the events are jammed into the week of July 3 through July 8.
The July 8 parade, which typically attracts crowds of more than 10,000, begins at 10 a.m. and goes from Prospect Road down Third Street. The fireworks begin at 9 p.m. from behind the Lumbee Regional Development Administration offices and follows a concert.
New events this year include the return of “Strike at the Wind!” on Friday and Saturday. The outdoor drama about Lumbee hero Henry Berry Lowrie has not been staged in 10 years and will move indoors for 7:30 p.m. performances in the Givens Performing Arts Center at UNCP.
Another new event is the Summer Jam featuring music by Pizazz. It will be from 7 to 10 p.m. in the Milton Hunt Town Park on July 5.
“It’s a busy time for Pembroke, but we are absolutely ready,” Town Clerk Amira Hunt said. “There are several public safety changes that people should know about.”
The town submitted a plan to Homeland Security this year because Lumbee Homecoming is such a large public gathering, Hunt said. During the parade, the center lane of Third Street will be blocked off for use by police and safety personnel, and autos will not be able to turn left off Third Street onto Union Chapel Road.
“Having a safety lane is a good idea,” Hunt said. “We’ve had people pass out from the heat, and this will make getting help to them much easier.”
Also, in compliance with state law, unlicensed off-road vehicles, such as “side-by-sides” and utility task vehicles, will not be allowed on town streets. Licensed and insured vehicles and golf carts, with permits from the town, are allowed on town streets during Homecoming. Golf cart permits are available at the town administration building and cost $20.
The Lumbee Regional Development Association has been the driving force behind Lumbee Homecoming since its inception in 1968. Although the festival has grown so large that LRDA cannot stage every event, it continues to plan many of the major events.
“Lumbee Homecoming will always be about pride and heritage,” said James Hardin, LRDA executive director. “The town of Pembroke and UNCP are at the center of Lumbee Homecoming, and they are great partners and hosts for many events that showcase the Lumbee people’s amazing heritage.
“Lumbee Homecoming itself has grown to become the economic center of ‘cultural tourism’ in Robeson County and the town of Pembroke, as it pumps millions of dollars into local economies.”
Homecoming planners already are looking forward to the 50th anniversary celebration.
“LRDA has been discussing for more than a year how to make the 50th year unique and memorable,” Hardin said. “We welcome ideas and thoughts from the public.”
UNCP will be a hub of activity throughout Lumbee Homecoming as the campus hosts many associated events and activities, including “Strike at the Wind!,” the Julian T. Pierce Memorial Art Dinner on June 30, Lumbee Games on July 3, the Little and Junior Lumbee Pageant on July 5, the Teen and Miss Lumbee Pageant on July 7, AISES Powwow and the Ambassadors Coronation on July 8.
“As a cultural hub for the Lumbee People, UNC Pembroke is pleased to serve as a focal point throughout Homecoming,” Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings said. “We are particularly excited about partnering with the Lumbee Tribe to revive ‘Strike at the Wind!’ to kick off the festivities … .”
The annual State of the Tribe Address by Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin is scheduled for noon on July 7 at the Boys and Girls Club. There will be a prayer service at 10 a.m. and an open house with food and games from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Lumbee Homecoming is a very exciting time for the tribe,” Godwin said. “It’s a unique event that has a big economic impact on the community as cultural tourism.
“Some of my favorite memories include the opening night of ‘Strike at the Wind!,’ which coincided with Homecoming. I also enjoy the AISES Powwow on UNCP’s campus. It’s a great place to see old friends.”
The festival offers something for almost everyone. It has beauty pageants, gospel sings and contemporary music, arts and crafts, food, athletic events, a powwow, a golf tournament, elder’s and veteran’s events and grape ice cream, too.
“I have many favorite things about Lumbee Homecoming,” Hunt said. “I am the auditor for the Little Miss Lumbee Pageant, but I go to all the pageants. They will be sold out again this year.
“I’m also in for the homemade ice cream, but don’t forget the collard sandwich.”