Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Fri, Sept. 18

Kayenta Township goes big with Fourth of July celebration

Elder Day during Kayenta’s Fourth of July celebration. Submitted photo

Elder Day during Kayenta’s Fourth of July celebration. Submitted photo

Kayenta community members and visitors enjoyed a full week of free events during the week of July 4, largely sponsored by the Kayenta Township. Events included the usual-a pow wow, rodeo, song and dance and fireworks. But for the second year, Kayenta offered much more, including a music festival, BMX bike event, dance and more.

"We fully funded or in part almost all of the events," said André Cordero, the township manager. "We went into it with the mindset that we would fund 100 percent all events, but the community came out in support as well. It would be hard to choose one or two events as being the most popular."

Cordero said the event was positive not only for community members, but local businesses like gas stations, motels and restaurants.

Geraldine Laughter, the project manager, said that the community benefited directly.

"This was good for people who were unable to travel out of town," she said.

Cordero said people had something to do right at their back door. He added volunteers were a big part of getting such a large event off the ground.

"Our staff, as well as other community members put a lot of work into it," Cordero said. "All were volunteers; they received no compensation. That is the wonderful thing about it. You don't see that much anymore."

Shonie De La Rosa, IT/media administrator for Kayenta Township, said this year's celebration featured a wide variety of music to appeal to all tastes.

"It was a great time of year for this event," said De La Rosa, who headed the music festival. "Everyone from the community gathered and had a great time. The event is bigger and caters to more people. There is always something to do all week; there is no reason for anyone to say they were bored."

Tourists enjoy it as well. People from the four corners are here, especially the rodeo people. All participate. People from all over come to the pow wow and rodeo. Most are Navajo. Tourists are attracted to the events. They may be driving through and hear the music and wonder what's going on."

The event takes a full year to plan.

"During that time, we work on the budget and decide who is in charge of what. The event comes together over numerous meetings," De La Rosa said. "When the time comes, everyone is super busy and all wear many hats."

Another popular event is the parade, which is free to enter unless one is a political entity. Further, committee members pointed out that Kayenta is well known for its fireworks display.

Gabriel Yazzie headed the incident command center.

"The event went pretty good. There were really no issues or problems with the event," Yazzie said. "Kayenta and Tuba City Navajo Police, Navajo County, Department of Public Safety, Arizona Department of Transportation were there to assist us."

One thing absent from this event was the unbelievable amount of trash usually seen at Navajo Nation fairs.

"We had a lot of volunteers help with this. We had a group come in that picked up trash all the way from Tuba City all the way here, and they picked trash here too. The township provided Gatorade, water, gloves and plastic bags," Cordero said.

Elena Begaii coordinated the pow wow, which featured 10 drums and nine divisions. Unique to the Kayenta pow wow, the Southern and Northern dancers are always separate.

"You need good committee members with good ideas," Begaii said. "It is also a good idea to get drums and emcees that have a following. That brings even more dancers and drums to the pow wow."

Begaii estimated at least 2,500 people attended the event Saturday evening.

"The bleachers were full," she said.

The audience judges dancers six years of age and younger in full regalia.

"This event has grown every year; this year we had 21 girls and 14 boys dancing. The audience had a hard time picking," Begaii said.

Della Nelson has coordinated the Song and Dance event for the past seven years.

"We had 38 drum groups and 200 dancers participated. That's quite a lot of people," Nelson said. "People seemed to have a lot of fun. They danced their hearts out for the cash prizes."

The Song and Dance featured several age categories, skip and two-step categories and three special events - jackpot dancing, best dressed and long distance traveler.

"Song and Dance people are mellow and calm. They don't bring many children with them," Nelson said. But she did remember one young man.

"One little boy was dressed really nice, and was dancing with a different lady at each song," she laughed. "He didn't sit down."

The song and dance also featured Navajo foods including favorites such as mutton, stew, frybread and soda pop.

"People really went for the frybread, but they danced it all off. We have gotten great feedback from the community," Cordero said. "We are hearing that this great community event needs to continue. People are able to stay at home and enjoy these events."

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