Orlando Uentillie helps his son, Odalis Uentillie, prepare on Friday for the San Juan College Contest Powwow at McGee Park Coliseum in Farmington.
Orlando Uentillie helps his son, Odalis Uentillie, prepare on Friday for the San Juan College Contest Powwow at McGee Park Coliseum in Farmington. (Jon Austria/ The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — Orlando Uentillie sat on the bleachers at the McGee Park Coliseum on Friday and carefully painted zigzagging lines on his son's face in preparation for the boy's dance at the San Juan College Contest Powwow.

"For a young guy, he's accomplished a lot," Uentillie said of his 8-year-old son, Odalis.

Odalis Uentillie, who attends Ojo Amarillo Elementary School in Fruitland, has already garnered attention at powwows. He has his image on T-shirts and posters sold at area powwows.

On Friday night, the annual powwow filled the coliseum with the sounds of drums as contestants danced to the music. It continues today starting at 10 a.m.

For many powwow participants, this week's event was just one of the many powwows they will attend this year. The powwows take dancers around the United States and into Canada.

"We're gone just about every weekend," said Orlando Uentillie, who lives in Tempe, Ariz.

While the powwow contestants danced at the south side of the coliseum, the north side was filled with vendors, including Mary Benavidez of the Santo Domingo Pueblo near Albuquerque. Benavidez continues her family's tradition by making bread and tamales using an adobe outdoor oven.

She started selling at the college powwow last year when she visited the Farmington area to pick up her son-in-law. She said she had a little bread to sell for gas money. An hour after she set up her booth at the powwow, she ran out of bread.

That success encouraged her to return to the powwow this year, and, within two hours, she had almost sold out of tamales.

While powwows may be new for Benavidez, who makes most of her money at farmers' markets in Albuquerque, many powwow attendees have been attending for their entire lives.

Jered Brown, 22, from Salmon, Ariz., started dancing when he was 2 years old.

Performers line up on Friday to participate in the grand entrance at the San Juan College Contest Powwow at McGee Park Coliseum in Farmington.
Performers line up on Friday to participate in the grand entrance at the San Juan College Contest Powwow at McGee Park Coliseum in Farmington. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times)

Dancing in powwows requires Brown to spend hours each week working out because his regalia is so heavy. His handmade regalia, which includes a breast plate made of animal bones and brass beads, weighs 55 pounds.

But all the work is worth it, Brown said. He said powwows give him a chance for to travel, meet new people and spend time with family.

"It's sharing our culture," he said.

IF YOU GO

What: San Juan College Contest Powwow

When: 10 a.m. to midnight today

Where: McGee Park Memorial Coliseum on the San Juan County Fairgrounds, 41 Road 5568, Farmington

Tickets: General admission is $6. Children 5 years old or younger and people older than 60 get in free

More info: 505-566-3321

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.