Nestled in northeast Arizona, the Navajo Nation Fair will be held on September 1-7, 2014 in the Navajo Nation capital. The theme for the 68th Annual Navajo Nation Fair is “Promoting Family Values Through Culture and Tradition.” This coveted and prestigious celebration is also known as the “grand daddy” of all Tribal Fairs, and for that matter, all American Indian festivals in the country. The weeklong, colorful event showcases the legacy and hallmark of the Navajo people. Visitors will see a collection of elegant art, sizzling indigenous Navajo cuisine, traditional attire, perfectly poised Navajo royalty, mesmerizing Navajo entertainers, soul-soothing music, a traditional song and dance, and a top-caliber Indian rodeo competition.
With thousands of visitors every year, the Navajo Nation Fair came from humble beginnings as a small gathering. Unbeknownst to many, the very first Navajo Nation Fair was the brainchild of a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) employee, according to historian Martin Link. The fair was held under the supervision of the BIA from 1937 to 1941 until it was discontinued during World War II. It began again in 1946, under new direction until 1952 when the BIA turned over the fairgrounds to the Navajo Nation, formerly called Navajo Tribe.
The very first Navajo Nation Fair did not have much funding, but organizers did have such events as Indian rodeo, horse racing and foot races. The grandstand, which still stands today, was built in 1938. The very first Miss Navajo contest was held in 1957 and named one of its first queen, Emmo Louise Anderson that year. The Sports Center, formerly called the Civic Center, was built in 1958 and was initially an exhibit hall for the fair.
Today, the Navajo Nation Fair attracts people from all parts of the world, including tribes from the U.S. and Canada. Fair organizers try to incorporate echoes of early Navajo history as well as modern-day events with activities ranging from fry bread contests and wild horse racing, to a pageantry parade.
For more information about the Navajo Nation Fair, call the Special Events Office at (928) 871-6478 or visit www.navajonationfair.com.
Roberta John is a Senior Economic Development Specialist at the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department. Prior to working there, she worked at the Navajo Tourism Department for several years to promote the Navajo Nation. Roberta is a part of the Arizona Office of Tourism's Guest Blogger program.