Thirteen years ago in the Black Hills of South Dakota a female buffalo was born on June 21, the longest day of the year.

For Chief Arvol Looking Horse of the Lakota Nation, and many people who enjoyed &

for free &

the amenities of the Jackson Wellsprings on Thursday, the birth of the white bison marks a impending change for the planet.

It also marks World Peace and Prayer Day, a celebration not so much of the bison's birthday, but more to honor the monumental change that is imminent on Earth, according to those who believe in the significance of the white buffalo.

"It's almost like we're at one second to midnight for our modern civilization," said Steve Traisman, who organizes the event in Ashland, as he sat poolside at the Wellsprings while children swam and splashed, Indian drums beat and people partied. "We feel by coming together to pray for peace and celebrate life we will help to create a shift in consciousness that will help restore the balance of life on Mother Earth."

This was Ashland's ninth-annual celebration of the event, and the eighth held at Wellsprings. Last year the annual solstice celebration was held in Lithia Park, but Traisman said he returned the party back to the hot springs and sauna resort because of its significance to Native American culture.

"The Wellsprings is our sacred site," said Traisman, noting that the event was being celebrated at other sacred sites from Mt. Fuji in Japan to Stonehenge in Great Britain. "For thousands of years, women gave birth [at the springs that now fill the pools of the Wellsprings]. Doctoring ceremonies were performed here, and it was used as a trade location and to celebrate life. Our prayers are stronger at sacred sites."

He added that the Wellsprings was also more accommodating to the amount of live music attendees want. Last year in Lithia Park, only one hour was allowed for live music. This year, there was 20 live bands that played from midafternoon to well into the evening of the longest day of the year.

A new addition this year was the use of the Wellsprings pools. In previous years, the event was held on the field away from the pool, but this year Traisman rented pool privileges as well to help make the party fun for all ages and beliefs.

"It makes it more of a festive occasion," he said. "And people don't get so hot."

Traisman said the pool also helps to attract people who might not be prone to celebrate a Native American ceremony.

"It's certainly become more mainstream," he said.

While the pool was the big draw during the day, the live music took precedence as the sun began to set. Jerry Lehrburger, owner of the Wellsprings, played with his band Pure Love, and other local musicians included Counting Coupe, a Native American drum group from Williams. Organik Time Machine closed the celebration, ending around 11 p.m.

While many came to swim and dance, some came to trade.

"It's a great place to find all kinds of handmade crafts and collectiques," said T. Scott, who set up a card table to showcase his goods. "Collectiques," he said, is a word to describe hard-to-find collectable artifacts, such as movie posters, rare coins, old books and other yard sale scores.

In addition to Scott's "collectiques" people sold handmade jewelry, hemp clothing and even self-published books.

Fred Rogers came from Merlin to show his new book, "World Peace Seeds."

Rogers made the trek from Merlin because, he said, "It's nice to feel the energy of people being focused on peace. Anything that raises our awareness of peace is good."

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