By Roberta John
Artists, dancers, musicians, rodeo athletes, and people from across the reservation and surrounding area have been gathering for the past 66 years in Window Rock, Arizona, to celebrate culture and tradition at the Navajo Nation Fair. The Fair is the “Largest American Indian Fair” in North America and is embracing the motto, “Appreciating Tradition” during this year’s events from September 2 through September 9.
The most prominent Navajo hero today is, undoubtedly, 90-year-old Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez from Jones Ranch, New Mexico. Nez is the only living member remaining of the original 29 U.S. Marine Corps 382nd Platoon who used the Navajo language to develop an unbreakable secret code in World War II to defeat the Japanese. Nez will be the grand marshal for the 66th Annual Navajo Nation Fair Parade on Saturday, September 8.
Navajo Nation Fair Manager Norma Bowman, said, “There’s nothing more fitting than to have Mr. Nez as our grand marshal because we appreciate all of our veterans for their dedication and service so we can enjoy our freedom and have events such as the Navajo Nation Fair. This will be a great time to pay tribute to our Navajo elders and celebrate their accomplishments.” Bowman added, “The overall population of the Navajo Nation is young, so we are always very happy and honored to have elders participate in a host of events that we sponsor or who choose to just enjoy the Navajo Nation Fair. Our elders are precious and full of wisdom; they provide us a glimpse of the past and are the key to our future.”
Speaking of elders, most people who reach 50 may think of slowing down and reminiscing about bygone days. But, that’s not the case if you’re a senior break away roper who will be participating in the Navajo Nation Fair Open Indian Rodeo, which will be held on Wednesday morning, September 5, at the Dean C. Jackson Rodeo Arena on the Navajo Nation Fairgrounds. In fact, approximately 30 senior Native American break away ropers will rise to the occasion and compete in a one go-round event to earn a wild card qualification to the International Indian Rodeo Finals (IIRF) in Albuquerque in September. Many Navajo Nation Fair rodeo event winners are likely to vie for a world championship title just after the Navajo Nation Fair.
“We’re taking excitement to a whole new level,” said Geri Camarillo, media representative for Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation. This year’s Navajo Nation Fair events are not restricted to the ground. “The sport of ballooning has been around a very long time, but it is quite new to Navajo country. We received a very positive response to the hot air balloon event at Monument Valley so we wanted to bring hot air balloons to Window Rock,” said Camarillo.
According to Bill Lee, an avid hot air balloon pilot from Gallup, NM, this will be the second time in the Fair’s history that hot air balloons will be part of the festivities. Lee will be one of several hot air balloon pilots that will help choreograph a picturesque setting of vibrant colors on the ground and in the sky. “It will be a real privilege to be a part of the celebration at this year’s Navajo Nation Fair,” Lee said. “The balloonists look forward to the night glow and filling the sky with brightly colored balloons and flying over the Navajo Nation capital.”
When Father Sky changes from vivid blue to a calming dusk, it may be cool, but fairgoers can warm up to a hot air balloon glow on Friday and Saturday nights at the Navajo Nation Fairgrounds, weather permitting. There will also be an opportunity to take pictures of the hot air balloons on the last day of the fair, Sunday, September 9, as air pilots are expected to color the morning skies at approximately 7 am, again, weather permitting.
Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department Director, Martin L. Begaye, said, “We are a proud participant and sponsor of the Navajo Nation Fair. This is a great time to see family and friends in addition to making new acquaintances. It is also a great opportunity to see what the Navajo Nation has to offer. Many people from throughout the world come to see our scenic attractions; but it is the Navajo people who provide the true beauty and uniqueness of the Navajo Nation. I am therefore, inviting Navajoland visitors to come to the Navajo Nation Fair. We want to share our cultural pride and beauty with you here in the Navajo Nation capital.”
The Navajo Nation Fair will also include a free Christian concert, a junior rodeo, a half-marathon, a Miss Navajo Nation butchering contest, a frybread contest, a Nizhoni Arts Market, an Extreme Native Bull Riding event, Native American comedy entertainment, an exceptional rodeo, a Navajo Nation Energy Expo, Hoshkii Happy/Kids Day, a free barbecue, Pueblo Country Band opening for country music artist Gary Allan, a traditional Navajo song and dance, an inter-tribal pow wow, a parade, an inter-tribal night performance, a fundraising golf tournament, a livestock and horticulture exhibit, a carnival, and more.
For more information, you can contact the Navajo Nation Special Events Office at (928) 871-7941 or 6632. You can also obtain information at: www.navajonationfair.com.