CARNEGIE — The Kiowa Gourd Clan will hold one of its annual benefit dances this weekend leading up to the Annual Fourth of July celebration in Carnegie.

It will be the first benefit since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down activities in March 2020.

The Kiowa Gourd Clan benefit will begin at noon Saturday, at the Kiowa Tribal dance grounds, south of the tribal complex in Carnegie.

Traditionally, the Kiowa Gourd Clan hosts three benefit dances a year. Tim Tsoodle, Kiowa Gourd Clan president, said they would have had five completed by this time without the pandemic. With the cancellation of last year’s events, it was the first time the organization hadn’t held an event since it was resurrected in 1957.

“We have to put safety first; that is paramount,” he said.

Tsoodle said the organization decided to end the benefit dances and annual event last year when COVID-19 shut everything down and CDC guidelines went into effect. The group plans to hold its annual Fourth of July celebration, but not without clearance from state and local officials.

“The benefit dances are important to the final event because of the money it takes to host such a large and successful event,” he said. “Kiowa Gourd Clan prides itself on financing its events through benefit dances.”

Tsoodle said they are lucky they had carried over monies from last year amidst the pandemic.

“We are going through uncharted waters, so we just do the best we can,” he said.

The Kiowa Gourd Clan is considered is the largest Kiowa gathering, bringing in more than 2,000 visitors during its three-day run.

Tsoodle said he realizes safety precautions must be practiced at this event.

“We are upset about it, but we got to do something if we want to continue ... and go back to the way it was,” he said.

There will be change with this weekend’s event due to COVID-19, according to Tsoodle. The arena director will refrain from bringing water to participants. Dancers and visitors won’t be able to line up to give money to honorees. But there will be a return to the old way of giveaways, where the honoree and person giving money are the only ones in the arena, he said. Once the money is placed near the honoree, they are asked to go back to their spot.

Seating will be arranged loosely and not close together. Masks and social distancing are required. Safety protocols at and around the drum are still being discussed. If someone is sick or has COVID-19 symptoms officials are asking you to please stay at home.

“We are testing the waters (with this benefit event) and a lot of praying involved,” Tsoodle stressed.

Officials said the annual Fourth of July Celebration is planned for July 1-4 at the Kiowa Dance Ground, but it’s not promised due to the ever-changing pandemic.

Written by Scott Rains: scott.rains@swoknews.com.

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