SHIPROCK — It may not seem like this year's Northern Navajo Nation Fair is much different than last year's.

But, organizers say, that's because a lot of the big changes are taking place behind the scenes.

“In order to think outside the box, we have to ensure that everything inside is manageable,” said Robert Felson, Jr., the fair director. “All coordinators are new. They have backgrounds in management and business, and they are all volunteers.”

Also new to the infrastructure of the fair management are marketing, information technologies and public relations departments.

Many of the fair's mainstay events, however, are back this year. The fair runs from Oct. 3 to 6 at the Northern Navajo Nation Fairgrounds in Shiprock.

The parade is always a favorite, and it will run from the east side of town to the south, as usual. To ensure the parade runs smoothly, parade coordinator Eugene Zohnie asks that people keep their children under control.

“We are asking floats to not throw candy,” Zohnie said.

Song and dance competitions will be going on throughout the weekend. Judges from all over the Navajo Nation will choose winners in several categories, from 15th to first place.

Guy Lee, the song and dance coordinator, expects to see 20 to 25 groups of singers compete.

Rodeo is an integral part of the fair as well, and coordinators have made a special point to include the children as much as possible.

Traditional trail rides, pageants, the Indian Market and the City of Fun carnival also keep fair-goers entertained.

Each year, the fair board chooses one person to heal during a nine-day healing ceremony, called the Yei'Bi'Chei. The ceremony is private and includes only the person who is being healed and a Medicine Man and his helpers. The man being healed this year is Patrick Tsosie of Cornfields, Ariz.

The final day of the healing ceremony, Oct.
Visitors to the Northern Navajo Nation Fair hang from the top of a carnival ride on Oct. 4, 2012.
Visitors to the Northern Navajo Nation Fair hang from the top of a carnival ride on Oct. 4, 2012. (The Daily Times file photo)
6, coincides with the final day of the fair, which closes at sunset.

The Northern Navajo Nation Fair is now in its 102nd year, and it is the longest-running fair on the reservation. The fair began as a place to trade the fruits of the harvest and to celebrate the harvest. Over the past century, the fair has grown larger and now incorporates many more traditions.

But one thing is still the same: it's a time to celebrate “culture, tradition and the harvest,” Felson said.

Felson said the board aims to use profit from this year's fair to revamp the fairgrounds and open them for year-round use. Residents have complained about the conditions of the fairgrounds for years, and coordinators would like to address those issues.

“We are here for a purpose,” Felson said. “That purpose is the people, the dedicated people, like those who stay overnight to see the parade.”

More information on the history of the Navajo people and the fair can be found at www.navajopeople.org.