Holiday organizers work to mitigate COVID-19 impact
Cherokee artist Dino “Oogoloot” Kingfisher speaks to people visiting his booth at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill during the 64th annual Cherokee National Holiday. Because this year’s holiday is virtual, no vendors will have a physical presence during Labor Day weekend. However, the tribe is offering vendors the opportunity to have an online presence during the celebration. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Among the many boons of the annual Cherokee National Holiday is the economic windfall, though that is certain to be lessened in 2020 by the “virtual holiday” necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A typical holiday attracts more than 100,000 visitors and puts millions of dollars into the local economy, including sales receipts for vendors and merchants who participate. State and local tax collections can amount to more than $150,000, officials said.
“The economic impact of the Cherokee National Holiday is very significant to all of the businesses, vendors, and artisans,” Austin Patton, Cherokee National Holiday coordinator, said.
Weather can also sometimes affect the holiday, but in recent years with sunshine, an estimated $3 million to $4 million is brought into Cherokee County.
But circumstances will make that a difficult benchmark in 2020, and many Cherokee artisans count on the holiday for sales and exposure.
“As we all know, this year has presented unique challenges for event organizers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we are developing a new online Native American artisans peer-to-peer marketplace called Spider Market,” Patton said.
Once launched, www.spider.market can be visited. It is intended to provide an outlet for Cherokee artists to sell authentic arts and crafts online.
“We also have the Spider Gallery for Cherokee artists to sell their work,” Patton said. “We are currently redeveloping the website for the Spider Gallery and it will be hosted at www.spider.gallery. Launch date and details will be released later in August.”
Patton said the redeveloped holiday website – holiday.cherokee.org – was set to launch at noon on Aug. 10. It will include instructions on how to download the holiday phone app, register for and watch events online and compete for prizes. Twitter will have #CherokeeHoliday2020 and Facebook will have @CherokeeNationalHoliday featuring posts to incorporate social elements and to allow “attendees to have a little fun showcasing where they are tuning in from,” Patton said.
“Because of this year’s unique challenges, the 68th Cherokee National Holiday will be held in a primarily virtual and social-distancing friendly format,” Patton said. “Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and all of the cabinet have been actively involved throughout the entire holiday planning process and making sure this event is still able to happen safely.”
Anna Knight, Commerce Services executive director, said the Cherokee Nation is “very cognizant” of the holiday’s impact, and is working to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.
“To offset this impact, we are creating online marketplaces,” Knight said. “The Cherokee Nation is underwriting and collaborating with NSU, the Tahlequah Chamber, City of Tahlequah and Main Street to create a Tahlequah Online Marketplace, an online one-stop shopping location. The Cherokee Nation looks for creative solutions and through this partnership. We believe this can help Tahlequah businesses adjust to the virtual holiday, as well as the future market, mid- and post-pandemic.”
Knight said businesses will be provided an online sales opportunity through the marketplace, which would be of greatest benefit to those without an online sales presence.
“Additionally, participating businesses can expect assistance and training in online sales and website creation,” she said. “As residents and the public begin using the online marketplace, businesses can expect increased online sales that are transacted safely given the necessity of social distancing. All businesses can benefit from the marketplace as shoppers can locate local businesses through one venue. Those businesses with an online presence may take part in training to optimize their online sales.”