Annual Tónaneesdizí festival celebrates youth
By Krista Allen
Special to the Times
The annual Tuba City Spring Festival has always been about celebrating the younger generation and after more than a decade continues to do so.
The spring festival started as a fundraiser for student scholarships 15 years ago, according to local leaders.
“And then it kind of blossomed from there,” said Mike Sixkiller, the Western Navajo Fair manager and the Tuba City community events coordinator. “We try to cater things around the youth.”
In fact, leaders here just wrapped up a two-day workshop for youngsters in Western Navajo. The workshop called “Failure Is Not an Option” is designed every year to motivate and inspire the young people.
“Failure Is Not an Option is almost part of the spring festival,” Sixkiller said. “Basically, we bring some very inspirational, motivational speakers to talk to our youth.”
The speakers this year were Thomas Amaya, Joe Baca, Amanda Blackhorse and Dyami Thomas.
“Failure Is Not an Option is more about getting real with these (kids) and presenting them with people who’ve faced obstacles, challenges, or maybe who’ve fall and gotten back up,” Sixkiller explained.
“The (leaders here) are really good about teaching kids to go school, to do good in school and get good grades, and making the right choices,” he said. “But what happens when real life gets in the way? What happens when you fall?”
And this is what the spring festival is about – the future of the community, said Sixkiller.
The festival begins today (April 4) with family day at the Western Navajo fairgrounds and a community cookout, fun run and walk, volleyball tournament, Zumba, arm-wrestling and Kentucky Fried Chicken hot-wing eating competitions.
“That’s just kicking it off,” Sixkiller said. “Everything’s free with the exception of carnival tickets. We always have a junior rodeo, but this year we went ahead and joined forces with (Dave Slim’s) Fool’s Classic Roping and Granger Bull Riding.”
On Friday, the day will begin with the Fool’s Classic Roping at the Western Navajo Fair rodeo arena and ends with Window Rock band Doreen and the Remedy at the new amphitheater.
The headliner for Friday is country singer Tim Hurley, who is based in Nashville, Tennessee.
“For the concert, we got a good lineup,” Sixkiller said. “Tim Hurley really seems to be a local favorite who kind of chose Tuba City to launch his career (in 2017). This is where he had one of his first big concerts (when he filled in for country music singer Kane Brown, who cancelled his show during the spring festival that year). And he throws a great show.”
Hurley comes every year to visit and he has support here, said Sixkiller.
The festival continues all day on Saturday beginning with the Fool’s Classic Roping and ending with a country-western dance. The ARIZE Fashion Show, coordinated by local designer Marisa Mike, will be held in Tuba City Boarding School’s cafeteria.
The fashion show is also geared toward the youth, said Mike.
“We have included student designers from grade school since the first ARIZE show in 2016,” she explained. “It has grown to include even more artisans than we had expected.”
A spaghetti dinner is set at the chapter house on Saturday night and Sunday’s main attraction is the half marathon and bike race, which is now in its second year, said Sixkiller.
“We will likely have more participants this year than last year (of 199 participants),” he said. “We’re about to hit last year’s numbers. (This is our) registration week.”
The scenic, half-marathon and bike trail is the Moenave Road which takes participants through panoramic views of the Little Colorado River, the Grand Canyon and Dook’o’oosłííd.
“It’s majestic,” Sixkiller said. “You don’t get those kinds of (views) anywhere of the plateaus and the San Francisco Peaks in the distance. This run will take you through all that.”
The race starts at the old Tuba City airport and goes through sand dunes and the communities of Monave and Hidden Springs.
“It’s a tale of two takes,” Sixkiller added. “This community – when we have a community event, these guys are just wanting to jump on it. It’s great!
“If you have a community that comes together like that, anything is possible,” he said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of this community. When we have events like this, we just all come together to support these things. It’s not like, ‘No! This is my territory!’”
The spring festival is also a fundraiser for the annual Western Navajo Fair.
Information: Western Navajo Fair office, 928-283-5544.