RAPID CITY, S.D, (KOTA TV) - Four thousand children shouted in the stands as Native American dancers took center stage Friday at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center to kick off the 33rd Annual Black Hills Pow Wow.
The beat of the drum and the jingle on dancers' clothing echoed through the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
Dozens of dancers and singers shared their cultural performances while competing for thousands of dollars in cash prizes.
It's a moment for young participants to break out of their shells.
"It's an awesome opportunity to help build the self-esteem of some of our Native American dancers that go to school in Rapid City. I remember coming here and dancing as a child and how good it feels to have everybody watching you be the center of attention," Black Hills Pow Wow Association President Stephen Yellowhawk said.
For the past three years, Lynn Cuny White has been preparing for this year's event by sewing on thousands of colorful beads on her dress.
She remembers in past years of the pow wow, dancing in the tennis courts outside of Central High School. To see the event evolve into an extravaganza touches her heart.
"Our grandparents were some of the first people who started this pow wow. My niece and my nephews they live in Oklahoma but they come back every year. So it feels like home and a celebration," Lynn Cuny White, a dancer, said.
Though harnessing the energy from the youth got the festivities started, Sicangu Lakota Warriors brought their own spirit.
The veterans traveled from Rosebud to present the colors this year.
One vet said this gathering is a way to unite cultures in a healthy way.
"With the world the way it is, the drugs and stuff. I just hope these things...all the races here, they see you can get along," Sicangu Lakota Warriors Commander Jim Herman said.
The festivities continue throughout the weekend and include a parade, a pageant and a final dance.