- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

GEORGETOWN, Tenn. (AP) - “Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam …” may have been on visitors’ minds Oct. 31 as they viewed many of the animals at the special “Blessing of the Buffalo” event in Georgetown.

The buffalo blessing on the Greg Vital farm was just one of the many special events held, as visitors to the site also viewed native Americans performing music, corn shuck dolls were made and other activities took place.

“This is the seventh time that we have opened up the farm to what we call the ‘Blessing of the Buffalo’ and fall festival to really celebrate the Thanksgiving season and symbolically say thank you for the conservation efforts of the buffalo and open spaces we have in our area, and our Cherokee heritage,” Vital said. “It gives visitors the chance to view the bison and calves that we have had this year.”

Vital said that there is a novelty to presenting his small herd of buffalo to the public, as many have never been in these iconic animals’ presence.

“They are a symbol of the early American pioneers, and even a connection with the Cherokee people and the native tribes of our country,” Vital said. He has 16 of the animals on his farm.

He said about 10 years ago, he started breeding buffalo on his property.

“This is special land that has been preserved with a conservation easement, so this will always be a farm, and the added benefit is that we have made it into a buffalo farm, and we’ve allowed ourselves to be involved in the conservation of that great mammal and bring it back to our part of the nation,” he said.

Lowery Begay and Emerson Begay of the Navajo nation did special blessings for the buffalo, as well as performed Native American rituals which included music and dancing.

Charlie Rhodarmer was at the event, representing the Sequoyah birthplace museum in Vonore. Shassy Baliles and her aunt created the corn dolls at the event.

Chili and other food was served to those in attendance, which numbered in the hundreds.

But the true reason for the event was to honor the buffalo.

“This is about celebrating the return of the American buffalo, and about preserving open space in Hamilton, Bradley and Meigs County,” Vital said.

The Vital farm is located on State Highway 60, the auto route of the Trail of Tears, so that history was also presented. The Tennessee Division of Forestry mascot Smokey Bear made an appearance.

“We appreciate all who came to the blessing, and those who were a part of the many things taking place here,” Vital said. “I am sure there are children who had never seen a buffalo before, and probably adults, too, so this gave them a chance to see and learn more about these spectacular animals.”

Though not necessarily an annual event, Vital did say that there would probably be a similar “Blessing of the Buffalo” next year as well.

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Information from: Cleveland Daily Banner, http://www.clevelandbanner.com/

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