COMMENTARY:  How about naming the Fairgrounds after Jerry Wolfe?

by Jul 22, 2020OPINIONS





There are many words that could be used to describe the late Jerry Wolfe, Beloved Man of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, including: traditionalist, storyteller, ambassador, ballplayer, mason, veteran, hero, etc.  In April 2013, he was named the first Beloved Man in over 200 years.

The late EBCI Beloved Man Jerry Wolfe speaks at the Tri-Council meeting at Red Clay State Park on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. He encouraged everyone to help save the Cherokee language and said, “Our true identity is our language. We must save our language and teach the youth coming along.” (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

Currently, the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds has a fairly dull name.  There’s nothing wrong with it per se, it is just dull and forgettable.  I propose the Beloved Man Jerry Wolfe Memorial Fairgrounds.

Wolfe was a staple at the annual Cherokee Indian Fair where he called all of the stickball games – describing much of the action and terms in the Cherokee language to expose the masses.

His dedication to the Cherokee language was immense.  When he was named a Beloved Man in 2013, EBCI Beloved Woman Myrtle Driver noted, “Oftentimes, we may come across a word that we don’t remember or we need to know something about our history or our culture, and we can always go to Jerry, and he is always more than willing to help us.”

Yes, he was always willing to help.

Following his passing in 2018, Gerry Grady, Wolfe’s daughter, said, “He was happy to be useful to the community in any way he could: teaching about stickball, storytelling, visiting schools, and offering prayers and smoke.  He was most passionate about the continuation of the Cherokee language and the culture…”

The Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds is home to the Cherokee Indian Fair, the annual event that best displays the culture of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  So, it seems fitting that the venue be named for one of the cultural icons of the Tribe.

While he was frequently honored by various organizations, Wolfe remained humble through it all.  He appreciated the recognition, but it certainly wasn’t a motivating factor for him.  After being named a Beloved Man, he simply said, “It’s an honor.  It’s a great honor.”

Wolfe provides a blessing for the Kanvwotiyi treatment center in the Snowbird Community immediately prior to the ribbon cutting on Dec. 18, 2017.

Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed spoke to this at Wolfe’s memorial service in March 2018, “He was a humble man.  In all the years I’ve known Jerry and all of the conversations I’ve had with him, I’ve never heard him say a cross word about another human being.  He was truly a man of humility.”

I had the pleasure of speaking with Wolfe many times over the years, and he was always kind, open to discussion, and you didn’t have a conversation with him, I mean a true conversation, unless he told you at least one story.

This idea wouldn’t cost too much really – just a new sign for the front of the Fairgrounds that probably is due to be replaced soon anyways.  The rest would be changes online or to the next run of brochures advertising Cherokee’s events, but there wouldn’t be any added cost as the new name could just be added into the new publications.

So, I think the Beloved Man Jerry Wolfe Memorial Fairgrounds would be a fitting memorial and honoring for a man who would be the last person who thought he deserved the recognition – all the more reason for him to be so honored.