Shiprock fair is on, fair board member says

By Erny Zah
Navajo Times

SHIPROCK, Aug. 27, 2010

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Despite recent news reports, the 99th Annual Shiprock Navajo Fair is scheduled to go on during the first weekend in October, according to a fair board official.

"Yeah, it's going. We'll have the fair," said Charley P. Joe, Shiprock Fair Board vice president.

Rumors flew last week that the fair may be cancelled after news reports stated that Shiprock Chapter passed a resolution to cancel the fair. The vote was 29-0.

However, according to sources that attended the meeting on Aug. 15, the people voted on a report by Robert Hayes, grazing committee representative. During his report he noted that the grazing committee was going to meet and that the Shiprock fair land lease was on the agenda. He asked how he should vote and the members present voted in favor of not renewing the lease.

Chapter staff said that minutes for that meeting wouldn't be available until later this week.

Regardless, Joe said the fair will be in the same area the fair has always been and said the fair board hasn't come across any problems with having it there.

"From the start it was a traditional fair. Nobody can stop it," he said, adding that it was originally used to share the annual harvest among communities. Eventually the Yé'ii bicheii was added along with other events.

He said the board estimates that about 120,000 people come through the gates every year when the weather is good.

However, the five self-appointed member fair board has come under fire this past year because they haven't disclosed any financial data.

The board claims they are a not-for-profit board and according to State Rep. Ray Begaye, D-Shiprock, the name Shiprock Fair Board Inc. does exist on the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission's records as a nonprofit organization, but they haven't reported any financial data for several years.

"With the Shiprock Fair Board, I'd like to see transparency," Begaye said, noting that he has run nonprofit organizations for about 17 years.
He said for years there has been a dispute between the chapter and the board due to the amount of money the fair brings in every year.

Some reports estimate that the fair generates as much as $4 million, but since the board has never released their financial records and the amount can't be verified.

Joe said $4 million is too high of an estimate.

"It's not $4 million. I don't know where they got that stuff," he said.

Frank Yabenny, Shiprock Fair Board president, said in the spring that he would release the fair's financial data to the public but hasn't done so yet.

In call to his office Wednesday afternoon, Yabenny refused to answer any questions from the Navajo Times.

"This is a business phone. I'm can't talk. Sorry, no comment," he said.

The fair board also has come under speculation for a fire in July, which is still being investigated by the FBI.

At any rate, Joe said the fair belongs to the people and not the board.

"We just oversee it," he said. "Like I said, the people started that and it's theirs."

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