Officials: 150,00 expected at Navajo Nation fair


By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, September 05, 2013

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T here are a number of indications that the 67th annual Navajo Nation Fair may be one for the record books.

The office for Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly is predicting as many as 150,000 tribal members and guests during the six-day event. In the recent past, the tribal fair has posted crowds of anywhere from 95,000 to 125,000.

The opening events on Monday - the baby contest and junior rodeo - attracted very good crowds for the early days of the fair and dozens of schools have indicated they plan to bring students to Kid's Day on Thursday.

People are also already setting up posts and other things along the parade route to save their spots for the Saturday event. A hundred or more families are expected to camp out Saturday night along the route to make sure they have choice seats for the event.

The Tsuu T'ina Tribe from Canada is bringing 35 of its members to attend a special event that will be held Saturday night, an event like no other that has been held in the history of the fair.

And even Frazier Brothers, the company that has been bringing in the carnival to the fair for more than six decades, promises a ride that is expected to amaze anyone who sees it.

For the first time, the fair is offering three nights of concerts instead of the usual two, which again is expected to draw larger than usual crowds.

The fair is sponsoring a total of three nights of fireworks - Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - after the concerts at about 11 p.m.

And if the weather cooperates - Thursday and Friday are predicted to be sunny with a 30 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms on Saturday and Sunday - rain may not be a factor.

So what can people expect at this year's fair that will be out of the ordinary?

Officials for the Frazier Shows of America Carnival are presenting the "Freak Out," which they are also calling "the Million Dollar" ride because that is how much it cost to create it.

Roberta John, a senior economic development specialist for the tribe who is helping out the fair in media relations, said the company took more than two years, working in the Netherlands, to develop the ride.

"There's only about a dozen of these in the United States," she said, adding that when she asked officials for the carnival about what it could do, the only thing they said was to come and see it and "be amazed."

Among the visitors at this year's fair will be a group of Koreans from New York who will be filming throughout the fair to show to the Korean market in their area who "want to learn more about Navajo culture."

Another special event this year centers around something that happened two years when officials for the Tsuu T'ina Tribe came down from Canada and presented to Shelly a war bonnet from their tribe.

Bruce Starlight, who presented the bonnet to Shelly, explained that tribal governments throughout history used the presentation of war bonnets as a way to build relationships between various tribes.

When it was presented to Shelly, he was told that the bonnet was a living entity and the owner had special obligations attached to owning the item - praying with it, talking to it and honoring it on special occasions.

Shelly has been carrying out his responsibilities, said Erny Zah, director of communications for his office, and plans to honor it with a special powwow that will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday at the fair's powwow arena.

The powwow is expected to attract double the usual number of 100 to 150 who attend.

One reason is the prize structure.

Instead of offering a $2,000 or $2,500 winner-take-all prize, the Navajo fair committee has decided to give out nine prizes that night, giving people a better chance of winning money.

First prize will be $1,500, followed by second at $1,200, third at $1,000, fourth at $800, fifth at $600 and sixth at $400. There will be three other consolation prizes of $200 each.

Another reason is that, unlike previous years, this year's powwow is the only big one held this weekend.

The fair office is also doing something different this year to make the fair more enjoyable to people who compete in the powwows.

The only grand entry this year will be at 6 p.m.

In the past, there would be a grand entry at 1 p.m., forcing the powwow contestants to battle the parade crowd to get there on time.

For many, this was a chore that created a lot of hassle because they were never sure if they would make it back in time to be a part of the grand entry. That's why each year there would be some who would come to the fairgrounds at 4 a.m. or so in the morning and camp out, so they would take no chance of being late.