PEMBROKE, N.C. (WTVD) -- After a year's hiatus because of COVID-19, the Lumbee Tribe's homecoming has made a return to the town of Pembroke.
This year's homecoming marks the 52nd year of the annual event, bringing anywhere between 15,000 and 20,000 Lumbee Tribe members and others to enjoy festivities for the rest of the week.
Glenn Hunt, a Lumbee Tribe member and owner of Lumbee Homemade Ice Cream, spent Thursday afternoon making collard green sandwiches at the Lumbee Outdoor Market that's right across the street from UNC Pembroke.
"I love it. It feels good to me. I like to see the crowd. I like to see a lot of friends that I hadn't seen in a year," Hunt said.
Last year's homecoming, like the majority of events in 2020, was canceled because of COVID-19. Tammy Maynor, the Interim Tribal Administrator of the Lumbee Tribe, said the pandemic's effect is still being felt.
"We are encouraging people to still be cautious, still be careful but to enjoy the Lumbee Homecoming," Maynor noted.
They're encouraging those who are not fully vaccinated to wear a mask. Lumbee Tribe officials have also decided to make all of their events outdoors to protect the community and others that visit.
According to Maynor, only 17% of Lumbee Tribe members are vaccinated, making it the lowest rate in Robeson County. She credits many residents' distrust of the government as a contributing factor.
"We lost great leaders over the year to COVID, so it's been a real great blow to our community," Maynor said.
Maynor said Lumbee Tribe administrators are also using this week's homecoming to encourage people to get fully vaccinated, something that will be touched upon during Tribe Chair Harvey Godwin Jr.'s State of the Tribe Address on Thursday evening.
Despite poor vaccinations rates, the overall deaths and positivity rates have dropped, showing COVID-19 slowly loosening its grip on the community.
For people like Joshua Hunt, an employee at CQUE, his family's barbecue business, the festivities and community-based events are a sign of the light at the end of the tunnel.
"To see some old faces again, seeing a lot of people that I hadn't seen in almost two years. It just feels good to be back out here," Hunt said.
According to the homecoming schedule, eventgoers can enjoy the Lumbee Fireworks Sky Show at 9:30 p.m. on Friday. There will also be a Teen and Miss Lumbee Pageant along with outdoor market filled with vendors.
On Saturday, the last day, guests can also participate in a 5K run, enjoy a bike show, and listen to live music.
Lumbee Tribe celebrates return of in-person homecoming, pushes for more vaccinations
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