Chinle 'royal family' sweeps child pageants

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

Window Rock, Ariz., September 5, 2013

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(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Parents help their baby contest contestant on Monday on Monday in Window Rock.

SECOND FROM TOP: Karianna Begay, 5 months, from Coyote Canyon, smiles to the crowd as she rides on her dinosaur Monday at the Navajo Nation Fair baby contest in Window Rock.

THIRD FROM TOP: Jason Begaye Jr., 7 months, watches his grandmother Wanda Begay sing to him as his mother Natasha Begay looks on Monday in Window Rock.

A single family made a sweep of the Navajo child pageant circuit this year when two sisters claimed titles in their respective age divisions at the 67th annual Navajo Nation Fair Baby Contest on Sept. 2.

Loriann Halwood, 7 months, from Chinle, Ariz. took home the first place for the female category, 7 to 12 months old, while her elder sister, Noahana Halwood toddled away with first place in the 25-to-36-months category.

The girls, daughters of Vanna Benally and Loren Hallwood, come from a royal family. Their older sister Diana Begay was recently crowned Little Miss Central 2013-2014, and another sister, Allison Begay is the 2012-2013 Miss Canyon de Chelly Elementary Princess.

Benally said she was surprised that her girls took first place in their categories but happy nonetheless because the girls did practice traditional teachings with their older sisters before the competitions.

The family got into the royalty circuit when yet another daughter, Angela Begay, took home first place in the Central Navajo Fair baby contest in 2012, Benally said, adding now each of their daughters holds a title.

Loriann wooed the crowd with music as she banged at the drums while her mother sang in the background. Being only 7 months she also showed them she is learning to crawl and sit on her own as she wore a traditional outfit with a maroon velvet shirt, a two-tier skirt with a floral pattern, jewelry and moccasins.

Noahana, in a blue traditional outfit, wowed the crowd with her traditional talents of grinding corn and introducing herself in Navajo. She also had an adorable exit as she rode off on her toy horse on wheels. As she is only 2 years old, you could see why the judges were impressed with her ability.

What better way to kick off fair week than with the impressive skills of a Navajo baby, not to mention the cuteness?

Over a hundred people felt it was a great event as they piled into the Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise tent to see the future of the Navajo Nation show their moves onstage. There were four categories, 0 to 6 months, 7 to 12 months, 13 to 24 months and 25 to 36 months. Each category had first place winners for the male and female contestants, but no contestant walked away empty-handed.

Zero-to-6-months male winner was Kellen Jacob Yellowhair from Fort Defiance, Ariz. He was carried onstage by his mother, Shayla Cooke. The female winner was Karianna Begay, 5 months, from Coyote Canyon, N.M. and she was carried onstage by her parents, Tanisha and Neill Begay.

Yellowhair was dressed in traditional attire consisting of a red velvet shirt, a black leather medicine satchel, turquoise jewelry, white pants and moccasins. For his talent he showed the crowd he could sit up on his own.

Begay was dressed in turquoise traditional attire. Her blouse and dress were turquoise along with her jewelry and her hair was tied up in little pigtails pointing out at the top her head. To top off her cute outfit Begay won the judges' votes as she rode her rocking horse as her talent.

"I thought it was a good way to get him out there," Cooke said, adding that she wanted her son to be a part of the baby contest because she entered her daughter Isabel Yellowhair in 2009 and she won the same category.

Being a teacher, Cooke said she looks at the milestones of child development and she felt the baby contest was a really great showcase for babies of different ages.

Begay's mother said she wanted to enter her daughter in the contest because it will give her a broader understanding of the Navajo culture and expose her to the public so she won't be so shy.

"We're doing something right," Begay's dad said of his daughter's win, adding how proud he is of his baby.

Nine-month-old Robert Sky John from Window Rock took away first place in the 7-to-12-month category. He was escorted onstage by his parents, Karen Francis and Jason John.

John tried to show the judges that he could kick and throw the ball as he was dressed in traditional attire with a purple velvet shirt, white bandana, turquoise jewelry, silver Concho belt and moccasins.

"I thought it would be good for him to see all the other babies dressed up in their outfits," Francis said on why she wanted her son to be a part of the contest, adding that it was a nice surprise for her son to win because all the babies were great in the competition.

"He's a good looking kid," John's dad said, adding that it was a last-minute decision to enter their son in the contest.

The male winner for the 25-to-36 month category was Amir Woodie, 3, from Twin Lakes, N.M. Woodie was accompanied on stage by his father Will Woodie and cousin sister Leilani Benally.

Woodie impressed the crowed with his song -and-dance skills as he danced around the stage with Benally. They were wearing traditional outfits both in pink.

Demari Yazzie, 19 months, from Many Farms, Ariz. won the judges' hearts as he took first place for the 13-to-24-months male category. Yazzie was assisted on stage by his parents Shannelle Sells and Malcolm Yazzie.

The female winner was Jessica Montoya, 19 months, from Albuquerque, N.M. She was brought on stage by her parents Jamie Livingston and Jason Montoya.

Yazzie showed off his cowboy and sporting skills as he roped a dummy, shot a basketball and hit a T-ball for his talents dressed in a dark blue velvet shirt, a white bandana, white pants and moccasins.

"We noticed he stands out because most kids his age don't do what he does," Sells said on why they entered him.

Montoya was dressed in an all-red traditional outfit and her hair tied in a little bun as she banged on a small drum for the judges.

Livingston said this was the first time they entered their daughter in a baby contest, and they wanted to do it because "she's really outgoing and every time we take pictures of her she already wants to be a model."

"She's a beautiful little baby," Montoya's dad Jason said, adding it's exciting that his daughter won.

The baby contest was only one of the many events happening during the 67th annual Navajo Nation Fair this week.

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