The 65th Annual Navajo Nation Fair
The Navajo Nation Fair was created in 1938 in an effort to stimulate livestock improvements and management through various exhibits for the Navajo people. The idea was to get a bunch of people involved in the livestock business together and learn from one another. Today, the 65th Annual Navajo Nation Fair has grown well beyond its livestock improvement roots and has become a massive showcase of Navajo agriculture, fine arts and crafts, and a tool to promote and preserve Navajo heritage.
The Navajo Nation Fair draws about 15,000 visitors a day to Window Rock, Arizona, which is situated on the border of Arizona and New Mexico. The fair takes place the Monday after Labor day, September 5, and goes until Sunday, September 11. It is the largest American Indian Fair and Rodeo in the Southwestern United States, and consists of 25 events that extend over the seven days.
As of press time, the event scheduled looked like this; Monday kicks off with the Open Junior Rodeo at the DCJ Memorial Arena at 8 a.m. Submissions for the Navajo Artisan Competition in the Nizhoni Arts Market take place at Gorman Hall at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning is the Indian Rodeo Slack competition at the DCJ Memorial Arena at 8 a.m., while judging begins for the Nizhoni Arts Market.
Wednesday, September 7, is when things really get going. The morning rodeo at DCJ Memorial Arena is followed by the Miss Navajo Butchering/Frybread competition at the Hazel Yazza Pavilion at 9 a.m. The Midway Exhibits open over at Nakai Hall at 10 p.m., followed by the official opening of the Nizhoni Arts Market at Gorman Hall at noon. At 7:30 p.m. there are two events, both as different as one could expect to be happening at the same fair. One is the Nizhonia Arts Market Fashion Show, which takes place at Gorman Hall. The second is Extreme Native Bull Riding, which happens over at the arena.
Thursday, September 8, is “kids day,” which goes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Annie Wauneka Song & Dance Arena. Activities include a mascot race, fruit scramble, safety workshops, zumba (a popular dance cardio routine that kids seem to love), and music. At 3 there will be a free BBQ at the aptly named BBQ Pavilion, and then that night marks the first performance of the Indian Rodeo at DCJ Memorial at 7.pm., followed by the music of Matt Kennon, a country singer and songwriter.
Friday, September 9 includes more rodeo events, art and horticulture exhibits, a wild horse race (a wild spectacle, imagine ten truly wild horses racing around the arena while cowboys, in three person teams, compete to see who can be the first to saddle and ride one of the horses), and the start of the Navajo Nation Fair Pow Wow. The Gourd Dancers start things off at 6:30 p.m. in the powwow arena, followed by the Grand Entry at 8. Then over at DCJ Memorial Arena, things get a little bit country again with the Easton Corbin concert starting at 9:30.
On Saturday, September 10, the Navajo Nation Fair Parade begins at Tse Bonito, in New Mexico. Highway 264 is closed for hours to allow for the parade to get from Tse Bonio to Window Rock. This is a full day of art and horticulture exhibits, Gourd Dancing and the Grand Entry, a Hawaiian Luau and rodeo.
On the final day, September 11, the final day of the fair, all the festivities come to a glorious conclusion with the last Gourd dancing, art exhibits, grand entry, and rodeo and wildhorse racing.
For a detailed list of the events, maps, lodging and direction information, please visit their site, here.