The Cherokee Bonfire Series Returns with an Extended Season | Cherokee, NC

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The Cherokee Bonfire Series Returns with an Extended Season

At the Cherokee Bonfire you can sit around a crackling fire at dusk and listen to Cherokee storytellers share stories and myths from the beginning of time. As the stories begin, sometimes accompanied by the beat of a hand drum, a sense of anticipation grows. In the background, the Oconaluftee River gently flows, and the stars begin to shine.

The setting is peaceful, but the narratives are riveting, including stories about animals, creation myths, legends, and even some ghost stories thrown into the mix. During the break, marshmallows are handed out for roasting.

“We have all kinds of stories,” says Daniel Tramper, the organizer of the Cherokee Bonfire series. “It’s a lot of unique stories that you won’t hear anywhere else.”

An Extended Season

The Cherokee Bonfire series started seven years ago as a way to bring people together to learn about Cherokee culture and history through live storytelling, music, dance, and performance.

It started as an idea to give back to the communities that visit Cherokee, says Daniel.

Over the years it has grown, but it still remains a free, family-friendly event taking place on Fridays and Saturdays from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Oconaluftee Islands Park during the spring and fall. This year the season will be extended, due to popular demand. The 2017 Cherokee Bonfire series runs from May 26 to August 26 and then picks up again every Friday and Saturday in October. Building up to the 4th of July Powwow weekend celebrations, there will also be nightly performances from June 26th to July 1st. Note that there will be no Bonfire events in September.​

Featured Tellers

Storytellers for the 2017 season include seasoned favorites like John Toineeta, pictured at above, as well as Kathi Littlejohn, and Lloyd Arneach. Sonny Ledford, Jaret Wildcat, Ernest Grant, and Will Tuschka are featured educators at the Bonfire, sharing Cherokee history and culture. Edward Sherrill, Daniel Tramper’s son, is a new storyteller joining the Bonfire circle. Mike Crowe, one of the stars of “Unto These Hills,” will be a special guest at the bonfire in October.

Keeping the Stories Alive

At the Cherokee Bonfire, the storytellers and performers work to preserve the ancient Cherokee traditions and keep them alive.

“The stories are the traditions of our people. If you don’t have the language, you don’t have the stories. That’s what makes the tribe: your language, your stories, your people, your food, your traditions,” says Daniel.

Bring a Lawnchair

There is seating for around a hundred people in the benches arranged around the bonfire, but the crowds are already at a record high for this season, so visitors are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs or a blanket to spread out on the grass. Water will be provided. This event is free and family-friendly.


At the Intersection of 441 and Hwy 19

in Oconaluftee Island Park

Cherokee, NC 28719

For more information, contact the Cherokee Welcome Center at 800.438.1601 or by email at

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