FORT WALTON BEACH — This year’s Annual Musical Echoes Festival seemed like a family affair to about 50 vendors at Fort Walton Landing.
John Ellis, a flute maker from Melbourne, said he sees the same vendors at the annual festival every year.
“It’s like a family reunion when we get here,” Ellis said.
In its 11 years, Musical Echoes has become the largest Native American flute festival in the country, according to organizers. The free three-day event wrapped up Sunday afternoon.
From deer toe rattles to alligator foot back scratchers, the event offered more than the handmade flutes on display throughout.
Greg Lightburn said he attended the festival for the music that included Grammy-nominated recording artist Michael Brant DeMaria and enjoyed wandering through the park during intermissions.
Connie Brown brought her four children to the event. She said she loved browsing through the artifacts in many of the booths.
This year’s turnout surpassed last year’s when it rained for two of the three days. Ellis said sales were down compared to other events but he enjoyed the three days of sunshine.
David Baxter has helped organize the festival since its inception.
“This isn’t about the money,” Baxter said. “It’s about the education. That’s why it’s free.”
Baxter and other festival organizers placed the emphasis on the music and focused on educating the public about Native American culture. People gathered for flute lessons at one end of the park while others looked at the 48 Native American artifacts found by archaeologists at the landing.
Baxter said the festival was alcohol-free to attract families and quality musicians. People from Atlanta, Montgomery and even Norway came to the event after hearing DeMaria would be performing.
“This is still one of the best festivals I perform in,” DeMaria said.