41st Annual Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation Powwow | Cherokee, NC

How will Cherokee affect you?

41st Annual Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation Powwow

Date: July 1 – 3, 2016

Opening Hours: Friday, 5 pm; Saturday 12 pm; Sunday 12 pm

Location: Acquoni Expo Center, 1501 Acquoni Rd., Cherokee, NC 28719

Parking: Ample free parking available, as well as an overflow lot walkable to the Expo center

Cost: CASH ONLY -- $12 daily or just $10 with a donation of three cans of food.

What to bring: Folding chairs are encouraged. Cameras are also permitted, but it's always best to ask permission before taking photos. Please observe any "no photo" rules announced by the emcee.

What not to bring: No alcohol, pets, or outside food or drinks. Food and drink concessions are available at the venue.

For lodgings and accommodations, see the full list of local options.

Daniel Tramper grew up in Cherokee and started dancing when he was only two years old. As a youth growing up in the 70s, he used to dance on the streets of Cherokee in short performances throughout the day. Later in his life, Daniel became a World Champion Hoop Dancer.

These days, Daniel, 51, doesn't dance as much as he used to, but spends most of his time bringing the best dance competitors and hopefuls from all over the United States, and the world, to Cherokee every year to compete in the Annual Eastern Band of Cherokee Powwow.

The Cherokee powwow is the biggest powwow on the east coast, awarding winning competitors over $60,000 in prize money.

If you've never been to a powwow before, Daniel says it's a unique chance to experience authentic Indian culture in a family-friendly event that's like nothing else out there.

"It's a good celebration of life," he says. "Coming to a powwow, you come into a lot of different cultures, including different tribes like Navajo, Cherokee, Apache, and Iroquois. At the powwow, these different tribes come together to celebrate life and keep their culture alive."

"It's the good spirit you have in the powwow that brings everyone together," explains Daniel. "For a person that has never been there -- you'll get diversity of culture, and so much more."​

The Heartbeat of the Powwow

The drum, he says, is the the heartbeat of the powwow.

"You can't dance without the drum," says Daniel.

Around Cherokee, you'll mostly find deer hide drums, including the hand drums, but up North, they sometimes use elk or moose hides. For the hand drum competition, dancers use a smaller drum, as big as a small cymbal, but small enough to be held in the hand. In addition to the dance competitions, drummers also compete for $20,000 in prize money.

"The drummers play their hearts out so that people go out and dance with all they've got," says Daniel.  ​

Thrilling Dance Competitions

One of the most popular, and exciting dance competitions to watch is the Men's Fancy and Women's Fancy.

"These dancers are the athletes of the powwow," says Tramper. "The dances are fast and furious. It's spectacular." Other styles of dance include Traditional, Fancy Shawl, Grass, Two Step, Jingle, and a memorial dance competition.

Just as there are dancing competitions in different styles, there are also different age categories, including Tiny Tots, Juniors, Teens, Men's and Women's, and Golden Age.

At the Intertribal dances, everyone can dance, including the audience. It's a chance to get up, stretch your legs, and enjoy the music, says Daniel, who observes most spectators eagerly tapping their feet to the music as they watch the live dance competitions.

In the Grand Entry, which Tramper describes as a "parade of colors," all the dancers come into the arena together, and dance for points. As many as 500 dancers may partake, seeking attention from the judges and putting on a fabulous display. This year's grand entry march takes place at 7 pm on Friday, July 1st.

On Saturday, July 2nd, the night will close with a magnificent fireworks show, and if you can't attend all three days of the powwow, Daniel says that Saturday is the day not to be missed.  

"We're the best fireworks show in Western North Carolina," he says. Daniel recommends bringing outdoor chairs and arriving early to secure a good spot. Parking is free and overflow parking is also available.

On Sunday, July 3rd, at 6 pm, the dance, drumming, and special event winners will be announced and awarded their prizes.

Event Schedule


Friday, July 1, 2016  

5 pm Gates Open/Arts & Crafts/Concession Opens

12–6 pm Registration begins for dancers at 12 pm

6:45 pm Drum Roll

7 pm Grand Entry, Two-Step Special, Tiny Tots/Jr’s, Golden Age Men, Golden Age Women, Men's Grass Specials, Men’s Traditional Special, Cherokee Warrior Special

10:30 pm Concludes Friday Night

Saturday, July 2, 2016

9 am–12 pm. Registration  

12 pm Gates to the public

12:45 pm Drum Roll

1 pm Grand Entry

1:30 pm Tiny Tots, Drum Contest, Men's Chicken Special, Junior Girls/Junior Boys, Teen Contest, Intertribal, Drum Contests, Men's/Women's Dance Contest  

5 pm Intertribal

5:30–6:30 pm Supper Break

6:45 pm Drum Roll will be called

7 pm Grand Entry, Tiny Tots/Jr's, Women's Contest, Men's Contest, Women's Jingle Special, Intertribal, Spike Drapper Fancy Dance Special,

Sunset Fireworks show

10 pm Concludes Saturday Night

Sunday, July 3, 2016

12 pm Gates Open

1 pm Grand Entry/Tiny Tots, Intertribal, Women's Contest, Men's Contest, Special, Men's Team Dance, Women's Team Dance, Drum Contest, Ties and Runoffs, Intertribal

6 pm Winners Announced

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