The 85th Annual Brighton Field Day Festival and Rodeo
The final event of the 2024 Seminole Tribe of Florida Festival Season is almost here! This weekend, visit the Brighton Reservation for the Brighton Field Day Festival and Rodeo. Last year, the first in-person event since the pandemic attracted thousands. From alligator wrestling competitions to professional rodeo, concerts, wildlife shows, and more, there is something sure to grab you each day of the three-day festival. So, don’t miss out on this exciting, unique event!
Interested in attending? There are NO authorized online retailers for Brighton Field Day tickets. Please purchase your tickets at the gate or at the two authorized in person retailers. In person, you can buy tickets either at Eli’s Western Wear in Okeechobee, FL or Glisson’s Animal Supply in Sebring, FL. Seniors (60+) and veterans, be sure to bring your ID for daily discounted tickets!
Who is Fred Smith?
The Seminole Tribe of Florida holds the Brighton Field Day Festival and Rodeo annually at the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena on the Brighton Seminole Reservation. A Tribal icon, Fred Smith was instrumental in revolutionizing the Seminole cattle industry. Additionally, he was an incredible businessman and politician dedicated to supporting and enriching the Seminole Tribe and his community. From a long line of cowkeepers, Smith was the grandson of famous Seminole cowkeeper Charlie Micco. Recently, we talked about Charlie Micco in a blog post. Micco was instrumental in establishing the Brighton cattle herds and the Brighton Red Barn.
Fred Smith was honored at last year’s Brighton Field Day Event, in recognition for “his contributions to the Seminole Tribe, his country, his community and his family.” Fred Smith had an equally important and wide-reaching impact on Seminole cattle and the Seminole Tribe as his grandfather. Smith “pioneered video auctions and group sales, made sure the Tribe had a voice in the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, lobbied for cattlemen in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., served as vice president of the Intertribal Agricultural Council and played a major role in making the Seminole Tribe the nation’s third largest calve producer.”
Rodeo was also incredibly important to Smith, who understood the importance of rodeo events for the community, especially the youth. Along with good friend Josiah Johns, Smith helped facilitate the creation of the rodeo arena in Brighton, as well as sponsoring a youth rodeo athletic program. Additionally, Smith was a strong advocate for the Brighton Field Day event. Thus, it seems fitting that each annual festival now takes place in an arena bearing his name!
Back in Brighton for another exciting year, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) competitions will be held across the three festival days. The PRCA is the oldest and most established professional rodeo organization in the world. Brighton joined the PRCA in 1940. Events include bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, and barrel racing.
On Friday, the PRCA Rodeo competitions will be held at 11:00am and 7:00pm. Saturday, more PRCA Rodeo competitions will be held in the arena at 3:00pm. On the final day of the festival, the PRCA Xtreme Bulls tour will hit the arena at 3:00pm. The Xtreme Bulls showcase featured some of the top ranked PRCA bull riders in the world, as well as contestants who have qualified through other Xtreme Bulls events.
Freestyle Alligator Wrestling Competition (FAWC)
A crowd favorite, FAWC is “a professional sports league in which the best alligator wranglers in the world test their skills and bravery against wild alligators.” Alligator wrestling is an important and celebrated facet of Seminole culture. In the early 19th century, alligator wrestling would ensure the survival of the Seminole people, fueling Seminole tourism during incredibly lean years. Having hunted and handled alligators for centuries, Seminole alligator wrestling is a cherished and celebrated activity. The FAWC competitions will be held across the three festival days: on Friday at 2:30pm, Saturday at 12:15 pm, and Sunday at 12:00pm.
Venomous Snake show with David “The Cobra Kid” Weathers
David “The Cobra Kid” Weathers will perform his venomous snake show across the three festival days: Friday at 5:30pm, Saturday at 2:30pm, and Sunday at 4:00pm. Weathers’ start in snake handling and inspiration are explained here;
“Born in 1977 native to South Florida David “The Cobra Kid” Weathers got his interest in wild animals at the young age of 3 years old when he saw legendary snake handler and venom expert Bill Haast at the Miami Serpentarium. After watching him handle a 14′ King Cobra, David knew from that day on that’s what he wanted to do.
Growing up with a passion for snakes his interest in the Animal Kingdom grew stronger as he saw performers such as Gunther Gable Williams of Ringling Bros. Circus and local alligator wrestlers on the Seminole Indian Reservation in Hollywood, FL. Seeing these people co-exist with these dangerous animals drew David more towards his dreams of becoming an animal handler and trainer.”
The Rita Youngman Band
Acclaimed Seminole singer, songwriter, and businesswoman Rita Youngman will perform at 9:00am on Friday and Saturday, and then 1:00pm on Sunday. She released her first album “The Marshtackie and I” in 2015. Youngman lives in Lake Placid, FL with her family.
Headed by Paul “Cowbone” Buster, the Cowbone Band started in the swamps of the Big Cypress Reservation. The Cowbone Band will perform on Friday at 1:30 pm, Saturday at 11:15 pm, and Sunday at 9:00 am. Buster explains the origins of the Cowbone Band on his website, saying:
“The Cowbone Band started when Tony, Paul Buster’s dad, Jimmy Roberts’ cousin, Tony Osceola and Jack Micco used to get together when Paul (AKA Cowbone) was younger playing under the oak tree. They also played at church once in a while. Cowbone learned from them, but at the time, he was more interested in football and basketball rather than actually joining the band. However, he did have time to listen to them play.”
Soon, Buster would pick up a guitar himself, and today’s Cowbone Band would be born. With a long history of performing, the Cowbone Band has been on stage with the likes of Waylon Jennings. On his website it states that love of music and staying true to himself drove Buster’s musical career: “Cowbone was an outlaw who never reached the main streams, yet he managed to just do things his own way.”
Fresh from the Indigenous Arts and Music Festival a few weeks ago, Supaman will be opening for this year’s Brighton Field Day headliner. On his website, Supaman explains his background and story:
“As a member of the “Apsáalooke Nation”, Supaman makes his home on the Crow reservation in Montana. “Supaman” Is Christian Takes Gun Parrish, a Native American dancer and innovative hip hop artist who has dedicated his life to empowering and spreading a message of hope, pride and resilience through his original art form…
…Supaman’s one-of-a-kind presentation combines Native American culture, comedy and urban hip hop culture which dazzles audiences and captivates listeners. For this he has gained the respect of his community and generation. The communicative talent along with the compassion that exudes from his storytelling of his experiences with foster care, suicide and cultural identity, allows him to connect with people from all walks of life. His uncanny ability to motivate, encourage, and inspire through dance, and hip-hop music keeps him at the forefront among his contemporaries which gives him a platform to educate on Indigenous issues.”
This year, the Brighton Field Day concert headliner is country music star Dustin Lynch. Lynch released his latest album “Killed the Cowboy” in September 2023. His sixth studio album with Broken Bow Records, it has been well received and reviewed since its release.
The deeply personal album represents a turning point for Lynch, who states that “This is the most open and honest I’ve been with an album because it really is me discovering what’s next for me, my life, and honestly, a little bit of therapy,” Lynch says. “I’m still figuring out what the right move is for me, you know, am I being intentional enough and trying to find someone to do life with? Am I too guarded?
Lynch will perform as the headliner on Saturday, February 17th at 6:00pm. The concert is included with a purchased ticket to the festival for Saturday. It will be outdoors, with a limited amount of bleacher seating. Concert organizers recommend that you bring your own chairs. No coolers or tents will be allowed.
In addition to the exciting music, animal shows, and rodeo, there will be a number of Native dance demonstrations throughout the festival weekend. The Dine & Mescalero Apache Dance Group will perform twice on Friday, February 16th at 10:30am and 5:00pm. On Saturday, February 17th and Sunday, February 18th they will perform at 3:00pm. The White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers will perform on Friday at 4:00pm, Saturday at 2:00pm, and Sunday at 1:15pm.
The “In Tianextll Tiacopan” Aztec Fire Dancers hail from Mexico City and are mostly comprised of Tellez Family members. They state that: “Our dances represent the timeless splendor of our Mexicah culture. Through these dances, we honor our Mexicah ancestors, indigenous legacy, and conserve our historical and cultural Mexicah identities. During our presentations at powwows, community events, educational and cultural institutions, we try to share our vibrant culture with other people. We want people to know the splendor of the Aztec (Mexicah) peoples is alive and well and not an imagination from the past.” They will perform Friday at 1:30 pm and 6:30 pm, Saturday at 4:30 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm.
Osceola’s Warrior Legacy
At this year’s Brighton Field Day, Osceola’s Warrior Legacy will perform traditional Seminole weapons demonstrations. Dedicated to educating people on the unconquered Seminole, the group often participate and host both weapons displays and battle reenactments. Miss them at Brighton Field Day? Check out their Facebook page for other event and outreach information.
In addition to the exciting and jam-packed event schedule outlined above, the Brighton Field Day Festival will also feature a parade, youth and adult clothing contests, and Native vendors and food. Additionally, a living Seminole Indian Village will be on display at the Seminole Culture Camp. A “Scales, Tails, and Teeth” Exhibit will also be open for festival-goers perusal. We encourage you to keep up to date with the Brighton Field Day Website, Facebook, and Instagram for full festival offerings, and any schedule changes that may occur. We hope to see you there!
Originally from Washington state, Deanna Butler received her BA in Archaeological Sciences from the University of Washington in 2014. Deanna moved to Florida in 2016. Soon, she began working for the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Deanna was the THPO’s Archaeological Collections Assistant from 2017-2021. While at the THPO, Deanna worked to preserve, support, and process the Tribe’s archaeological collection. She often wrote the popular Artifact of the Month series and worked on many community and educational outreach programs. She lives in Lakeland, FL with her husband, two sons, and dog.