SHIPROCK — A chorus of "oohs" and "ahhs" rose from the corrals that house the 4-H Club competition as students on Thursday checked out the chickens, rabbits and sheep inside.

Sabri Johnson and Tamika Benally, both fourth graders at Shiprock's Nizhoni Elementary, giggled at the rabbits.

"Both of them were fluffy and hairy," Johnson said.

"And cute," Benally added.

The girls were among the hundreds of students who attended Youth Day during the first day of the 102nd annual Northern Navajo Nation Fair.

As Johnson and Benally stood with smiles on their faces, they explained that they like the event because of the free items, like pencils, pens and backpacks, and because they can meet children from other schools.

San Juan County District 12 firefighter Elijah Atson shows off the hose used to knock down fires during a presentation Thursday at the Northern Navajo
San Juan County District 12 firefighter Elijah Atson shows off the hose used to knock down fires during a presentation Thursday at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

About 25 schools signed in for Youth Day, including those from Shiprock, Bloomfield, Kirtland, Newcomb, Nenahnezad and Ojo Encino, as well as Sweetwater, Ariz., and Aneth, Utah.

Three inflatable houses were set up in one part of the Northern Navajo Nation Fairgrounds, and each one moved up and down as children bounced inside.

Backpacks, jackets and shoes were left on top of the gray tarp in front of the bounce house entrance.

Braydon Boyer, a pre-kindergarten student at Nizhoni Elementary, carefully put on his shoes after having fun in the Spider-Man bounce house.

"I like Spider-Man," Boyer said, then hiding behind his mother, Raylene Captain.

Captain, of Shiprock, volunteered for the event. She said students also visited the exhibit hall and carnival.

"I'm enjoying it right now," she said.

Isaac Etcitty and Latrell Begay, both students from Eva B. Stokely Elementary in Shiprock, tried their boxing skills at the booth set up by Damon-Bahe Boxing from Chinle, Ariz.

Etcitty took to the punching bag like the Energizer Bunny to its drum while Begay kept a steady pace.

"I saw this and wanted to try out with my friend Isaac," Begay said, later explaining he learned to punch from his older brother.

Before the boys got started, boxer Alvira Teller explained that the jab technique they were going to try was called the "one-two combo," which involves the boxer punching left then right in a straight motion for 30 seconds.

Teller said she volunteered at the event to teach children about boxing's benefits, including disciple and confidence.

"'Can't' is not a word in our gym," she said.

Quentin Aspaas, a volunteer firefighter with San Juan County District 12, talked to 19 kindergarten students from Mesa Elementary in Shiprock about fire safety.

As the students climbed into a fluorescent green fire truck, one student paused and asked Aspaas why there was a teddy bear sitting on top of an ice chest.

Lanay Bowman, center, and her classmates from Aneth Community School in Aneth, Utah, work on their punches Thursday at the Damon-Bahe Boxing booth at the
Lanay Bowman, center, and her classmates from Aneth Community School in Aneth, Utah, work on their punches Thursday at the Damon-Bahe Boxing booth at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

Aspaas told the students that there are times when firefighters save children, and, sometimes, those children are scared, so the teddy bear comforts them.

Providing that type of information, along with details about the equipment firefighters use, teaches students about the work firefighters do, he said.

"We do want them to be aware that we are there to help them and not to harm them," Aspaas said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow him @nsmithdt on Twitter.