FARMINGTON — Dried corncobs, greasy paper plates and empty candy wrappers lay strewn across the fairgrounds in Shiprock on Monday.

Gathered against fences, under bleachers and on sidewalks - all were remnants of four days of festivities at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair.

In the 101 years that the fair has been running, one of the its constants in recent years has been the abundance of trash left over.

"It's a mixture of a lot of things - paper plates, bottles, cans - nasty stuff," said Phil Begay.

Begay's cleaning service out of Lukachukai, Ariz., called Helping Hands, this year was the sole group responsible for picking up the trash that accumulated on the property since early last week.

The group cleaned the fairgrounds and the Indian Market areas, along with the stretch of parallel Uranium Boulevard.

"My guys are burnt out," said Begay, who started Thursday with 11 crewmembers. The number dwindled to four by Monday. "Some of them just said, I'm done,' and left."

The fair board provided eight on-site dumpsters and about 1,000 trash bins, but still the litter was widespread and abundant during and after the fair.

The Helping Hands crew gathered about 1,000 bags of trash during the fair, Begay estimated, though they still had much work to do Monday.

"I was telling people that I think we put out invisible trash cans because they put it everywhere except the trash cans," said Begay.


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The task was made no easier by the dusty, windy conditions that descended upon Shiprock during the weekend.

"People need to pick up after themselves," said Derrick Jim, whose home is in the same neighborhood as the fairgrounds.

Jim and his wife, Marisha, for 10 years have watched the fair take place on the other side of the fence.

"Every year," Derrick said, explaining that each year the activities leave behind a smattering of debris, some of which carries into their yard.

Usually residents and fair organizers throughout the week return to sweep the grounds for the remainder of trash, Derrick said.

Fair organizers hope to do more in future years, said Manny Wheeler, the Navajo Nation Museum director.

Wheeler took charge of finances for the Northern Navajo Nation Fair this year after direction from Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly. Wheeler could not release the budget for the cleanup, but it was not sufficient for the task, he said.

"Sanitation is very important to me, and we do the best we can with what we have," Wheeler said. "I wish we had more."

Wheeler added that the Navajo Nation would release the full analysis of the fair's budget in the next month or so, upon which further could be discussed about improvements for next year's fair.

Interim Fair Director Harry Descheene declined to comment.