Giant tent protects powwow dancers from cold

By Diego James Robles
Special to the Times

Tónaneesdizí, Oct. 24, 2013

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(Times photo – Krista Allen)

The beating of drums were heard throughout the fairground on Saturday during the 45th annual Tónaneesdizí Diné Fair powwow where dancers from across the country gathered under a colossal tent.

SLIDESHOW: Scenes from the fair. Photos by Krista Allen - Navajo Times.

What a difference a few dozen yards make when it comes to the optimal location at the fair.

Located near the song-and-dance tent and adjacent to the arts-and-crafts one, this year's powwow saw bigger crowds even if the number of dancers stayed relatively unchanged during the last big powwow of the season Oct. 18-19.

Wanda Brown of Window Rock, in her second year of coordinating the Western Navajo Fair Powwow, credited the tent's location for bigger crowds and more convenience for dancers.

"Our location is different, we are down south a little and we are very close to the vendors, unlike last year," Brown said. "We are kind of centralized more instead of up the hill."

It was also the second year of utilizing a large tent for the sometimes cold and often windy powwow. The gargantuan 100-by-200-foot tent protected dancers and spectators alike during a very cold Friday night.

Local singer and powwow mom, Helena Badonie of Page, Ariz., attended the powwow with her daughter Cheyenne Chee, the eventual first-runner-up in the Western Navajo Fair Powwow Princess pageant.

"It was so cold last night," Badonie said. "We were sitting right where the wind was hitting us but today we moved closer to the center."

And so it was a rough start to the fair powwow with grand entry delayed by 30 minutes and then an hour due to equipment and technical difficulties. However, most dancers were just happy to have relative peace compared to the harsh conditions of the Navajo Nation Fair and Northern Navajo Nation Fair powwows.

Happy to be taking pictures, Rod Schnare of Osnabrueck, Germany, enjoyed himself despite sticking out even amongst Anglos.

"My girlfriend and I are vacationing and traveling, trying to see the nature of Arizona and Utah," Schnare said. "Everybody is absolutely friendly to us and let us take pictures and so when we get back to Germany, we will tell all our kids and our friends how we were treated here."

Also enjoying herself after years of not attending a powwow, Linda Smith was eating a large rectangular block of french fries while keeping time with the various powwow drums. Smith laughed about coming alone to the powwow because her husband can't stand the repetitive nature of the songs.

"I like the beat of the drums, the excitement of the fair and Wayne can't stand it," Smith said of her husband.

Fancy shawl dancer Tamarah Gray, 14, of Chilchinbito, Ariz., experienced conflicted thoughts during the closing moments of the powwow on Saturday night. The outgoing princess for the powwow, Gray knew this moment would come, when she'd have to give up the crown.

"It was a great honor representing the Western Agency by traveling all over the southwest part of the country and dancing my own style and respecting my regalia and where I come from," Gray said. "I hope the new princess has as much respect for it."

Throughout the day, Brown resisted requests to open parts of the tent to alleviate crowded conditions around the relatively few entrances. However, as the night wore on and the temperatures dropped, many dancers were thankful for this decision and that the tent had not become a cold walkway for fair-goers getting from one place to another.

"We had a rough start because of some equipment issues but overall it was another successful powwow and I just want to thank this professional head staff for helping me put this together," Brown said.

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