Oconaluftee Indian Village prepares to open for 2024 season

by Apr 12, 2024A&E, COMMUNITY sgadugi0 comments


One Feather Reporter


CHEROKEE, N.C. – The Oconaluftee Indian Village will open on Tuesday, April 16, for their 2024 season, which will last until Nov. 2. The Cherokee Historical Association (CHA) is collaborating with PGAV Destinations to further develop and grow the socioeconomic impact of the Oconaluftee Indian Village and the Unto These Hills Mountainside Theatre, while maintaining the age-old charm that makes these locations a staple of the Cherokee cultural district.

Cherokee artisan Karen George prepares finger woven belts for the 2024 opening day of the Oconaluftee Indian Village. (BROOKLYN BROWN/One Feather photos)

PGAV Destinations is a destination marketing firm with clients including the Biltmore Companies, National Geographic, SeaWorld, Delaware North, Bass Pro Shops, the Gettysburg Foundation, the Georgia Aquarium, and more.

Laura Blythe, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) member and CHA program director and member of the executive management team, says that PGAV Destinations has developed a master plan for the Village, including ideas for growth that will expand the season, facilitate global impact, and upgrade infrastructure.

“A little under a year ago, we went through some leadership change at CHA. It really made us pull our focus together and collectively look at the direction the company’s going: What are we missing? What do we need to branch out into? We have high goals of making sure that we give true, authentic, educated material to our guests that come through,” Blythe said.

“PGAV was excited to work with us because they’ve worked with a lot of other Southern Highlands attraction partners like Ruby Falls, Rock City, Nantahala Outdoor Center, the Biltmore House, and they’ve also worked with other Native tribes. They’ve helped them work through multiple phases of revamping their attractions and making them still authentic and consistent with what their vision is, but also what captures today’s audience.”

Chelsey Moore, CHA communications and development director, is excited for the collaboration between CHA and PGAV Destinations, “Everyone that works here has a lot of great ideas. We have a lot of passion about the organization and what we do, and we’re so excited to work with the people that have the industry expertise to really guide us in the right direction.”

Blythe is anticipating the path forward, “This, to me, is one of the biggest, most exciting things that CHA has done in a very long time, because it shows us the possibilities and the potential that those of us on the inside who have been here for years might not know we’re missing. Now the work begins.”

The Oconaluftee Indian Village prepares to open on April 16 for their 2024 season.

Some of the new elements CHA hopes to develop include extended cultural staff training, year-round operation, video production, and global subscriptions. “We’ve met with Cherokee storyteller Kathi Littlejohn, and we are working on a plan to run some Cherokee homeland tours. She wants to do training tours for our staff to show them some of the culturally significant areas that we don’t know that’s in our backyard,” Blythe said. “She was able to do that for our recent staff orientation, and it was probably a six-hour trip just on the Qualla Boundary.”

The Village also wants to develop self-guided, video-assisted tours for late season operation, which could potentially mean year-round operation with an upgraded infrastructure. “We’re hoping to work with a local video production company, Jason Ledford, who works at Western Carolina University,” Blythe said. “With this video production, we’re also looking at worldwide subscriptions, where school systems from California, or New Zealand, Australia, Europe, could subscribe with a 24-hour access code and learn about the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians from wherever they’re at. Part of our mission is sharing Cherokee history and culture with the world.”

The Village is opening early, as they have for the past few years, continuing their goal of expanding their operation. The Village was also recently voted as #3 in USA Today’s Top Ten Best Open-Air Museums.

“We all have an immense amount of passion for what we do and who we’re hoping to be and where we’re hoping to go. I’ve been here since I was 15 years old. This is the place that I love, and we have to help it continue,” Blythe said.

Tickets are available at online or by calling (828) 497-2111 during business hours (9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.). Tickets will be discounted at 10 percent off until Sunday, April 14. Use code “kawohni” to book discounted tickets for any day of the season.