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A front row seat to TAP events

Courtesy South Dakota Dept. of Tourism

Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park
South Dakota
Buffalo thunder across the prairie, shaking the ground, at the Buffalo Roundup in South Dakota’s Custer State Park. Each September, authentic cowboys saddle up their horses, buckle on their spurs and head into the Black Hills to corral the park’s wild buffalo.

The three cowboy teams — red, white and blue — have different jobs to control the buffalo during the roundup. The cowboys work throughout the week to guide the buffalo into certain areas of the park. The public sees the last push as the buffalo come up and over the hills and rush down into the corrals.

When the buffalo are secured, the public can stand alongside the corrals and watch a select number being branded, vaccinated and sorted. It takes a month to deal with the entire herd. Following the demonstration, groups can enjoy a chuck-wagon lunch of pulled pork or beef sandwiches, baked beans, dinner rolls, cookies and beverages.

“Nowhere else in the country can visitors experience an event like this close up,” said Jim Hagen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism. “Spectators will get a real appreciation for history, as well as the bison, as they see, hear and feel 1,300 of these magnificent animals stampeding over the hills of Custer State Park.”

The annual roundup is part of an effort to preserve and protect buffalo in South Dakota for future generations. Each November, some of the buffalo are auctioned in order to limit their numbers to between 1,300 and 1,500 head.

“The Buffalo Roundup is a quintessential example of Old West culture living in today’s world,” said Matt Snyder, superintendent of Custer State Park. “The work our park staff and volunteer cowboys do is essential to the management of the bison herd and helps to keep alive a part of our history.”

Mackinac Lilac Festival
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Heralding the arrival of warm weather, the Mackinac Lilac Festival, June 7-16, is Mackinac Island’s largest summer event. Festivities include the coronation of the Lilac Festival Queen and Court, Movies at the Mission, the Grand Hotel garden tour and history lecture, concerts, harbor sailing tours and a grand parade finale.

“The festival celebrates its most recognized botanical symbol, the lilac, many of which were brought here during the Colonial era,” said Mary McGuire Slevin, executive director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau.

On the lawn of Harbour View Inn, surrounded by some of the island’s oldest lilacs, the Taste of Mackinac provides an opportunity to sample culinary favorites served by island chefs. Cuisine ranges from Colonial to contemporary and includes French, Irish, Italian and Jamaican fare.

Celebrating equine and canine companions, the Mackinac Island Dog and Pony Club hosts the annual Mackinac Island Dog and Pony Show and the Epona and Barkus Parade. The Dog and Pony Show includes a blessing of the animals, horse etiquette lessons, informal best-in-show awards and agility competitions. It features animal trainer extraordinaire Dan Wallen, a descendant of generations of circus animal trainers.

Tour groups can arrange a private “Walk and Talk With Lilacs” symposium given by members of the International Lilac Society. Master gardener tours can also be organized.

“Hosting members from the International Lilac Society is a unique opportunity to gather the world’s foremost lilac experts and enthusiasts here on Mackinac Island,” said Slevin. “This is home to some of the country’s oldest, largest and most beautiful lilacs.”

Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
On June 7, the streets of downtown Oklahoma City will vibrate with the sights and sounds of more than 100 Native American tribes dressed in full regalia at the opening of the Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival. At the Cox Convention Center, more than 1,200 American Indian artists, dancers and singers from throughout North America will be gathered.

“Red Earth has matured into one of the most respected visual and performing arts events of its type, setting the standard for many of today’s Indian art shows held throughout the nation,” said Eric Oesch, deputy director of the Red Earth Museum and Red Earth Festival.

During the juried art show and market, festivalgoers can view the works of celebrated nationally known artists. Visitors can purchase contemporary and traditional examples of beadwork, basketry, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, paintings, graphics and cultural attire.

Red Earth dancers and singers represent the elite of Native American dance, some of the most gifted and accomplished in the world. The masters, all in their own distinctive tribal dress, exhibit their originality and skills in one of the most prestigious of all native dance competitions.

“The dance competition at Red Earth is one of the rare occasions when dancers from America’s northern and southern tribes can be seen together in one venue,” said Oesch.


Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.