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Marking 20 years of traditional, clean fun

LITTLE BOSTON — More than 500 people, representing as many as 25 different tribes, showed up last year to the Stan Purser Memorial Pow Wow on the Port Gamble Indian Reservation.

While it was a record turnout, organizer and Stan Purser’s granddaughter Dawn Purser hopes that number increases next weekend, especially since it will be the 20th anniversary of the event. The festival will start at 4 p.m. Feb. 25 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 26.

Stan Purser was a Port Gamble S’Klallam Elder who started the pow wow as a way for young tribal members to get together and have a good time without alcohol or drugs.

“He was really concerned with the children in the community,” Purser explained. “He wanted to have a day they could play and have fun and be safe and have community unity and that’s why we keep doing it.”

Friday evening’s festivities will include dinner, national and local vendors selling authentic Native American art, a story teller at 7 p.m. and drum circles.

Saturday will feature a community feast at 2 p.m. followed by the grand entry at 4 p.m. when the dancing and drumming begins and is expected to go late into the night, Purser said.

There will also be a candy toss for kids that evening, which is an offshoot of one of Stan’s old habits, his granddaughter said, noting he used to always hand out candy to the kids who would visit his house.

An honoring ceremony for Stan’s son, Ben Purser, will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday. Ben Purser, who died in March 2004, was an Army veteran and was well-known in the tribal community for his awards earned as a solider, including a Purple Heart.

For the Purser family, this festival is a way of giving back to the community.

“To me, it shows if your family gets together and you are determined and believe in the same cause, you can come up with something really good,” Purser said.

For newcomers, it’s a fun experience, she explained. From seeing kids and elders in traditional dress and dancing with each other to looking at the different kinds of Native American art, there is something for everyone.

“There is more than just the stereotypes that people are used to seeing,” Purser said.

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