Northern Fair: Come for the events, stay for the produce


SHIPROCK

Special to the Times | Ray Landry Construction workers Steven John (left), and Neville Nez assemble an announcer stand on Monday at the Norther Navajo fairgrounds.

Special to the Times | Ray Landry
Construction workers Steven John (left), and Neville Nez assemble an announcer stand on Monday at the Norther Navajo fairgrounds.

Organizers of the 105th annual Northern Navajo Nation Fair are expecting as many as 100,000 visitors to downtown Shiprock this weekend.

The fair, which coincides with the autumn harvest and the nine-day, sacred Yei’Bi’Chei ceremony, is widely regarded as the Nation’s oldest and most traditional. This year’s theme is “Restoring beauty to the Navajo Nation through traditional teachings and blessings.”

“We have 14 different events, from the elder fest to pageants to the parade to the powwow to the rodeo,” fair director Harry Descheene said. “We’re making this happen and it’s going to be great.”

The Northern Navajo Nation Fair usually draws the biggest crowds of any of the regional fairs, Descheene said. On average, 90,000 to 100,000 people attend, coming from as far away as the Midwest to experience Navajo culture.

Festivities began Sept. 23 with the start of the Yei’Bi’Chei and continue through Sunday. The carnival begins today, along with the elder fest and live entertainment.

Rodeos, powwows, gourd dances, and a Song & Dance continue through Sunday, as well as 4-H exhibits and the Indian Market. Miss Northern and Miss Northern Teen will be crowned Friday after a series of modern and traditional competitions, and vendors will sell fresh produce as long as it lasts, Descheene said.

“This is the only fair on the Nation with harvest sales,” he said. “Come for the events, but there will also be lots of watermelon, cantaloupe, corn, and kneel down bread.”

“The fair is the largest event held in the Northern Agency,” said Herbert Clah, who serves on the organizing committee.

The fair board shells out tens of thousands of dollars ahead of time to ensure everything runs smoothly. That includes $26,000 for port-a-potties alone, he said.

This year, the fair board is also unveiling a new Yei’Bi’Chei hogan, a refurbished arts and crafts building and exhibit hall and improvements to the rodeo grounds.

The highlight of the annual fair is the Saturday morning parade, coordinator Eugene Zohnie said. An estimated 120 entries will participate in the three-mile parade down U.S. 64, and spectators will line up the night before and camp along the highway.

“We have political floats, dancers, bands, royalty,” Zohnie said. “We also have people coming in from way out yonder, like someone from South Dakota who called and said they wanted to be in the parade.”

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