Totah Festival returns this weekend to Farmington Civic Center

Poster contest is back this year after short absence

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • A pow wow and rug auction will highlight Saturday's activities.
  • Sunday's Cultural Expo will feature performances by three Native dance troupes.
  • Farmington Museum Director Bart Wilsey calls the festival the premier event within the region to buy Native American art.

FARMINGTON — The return of one tradition and the emergence of a new one will highlight this weekend's annual Totah Festival, which takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Farmington Civic Center.

Festival organizers have decided to resurrect the Totah Festival poster contest after a two-year absence, said Bart Wilsey, the director of the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

"I think it was one of those things that we heard from enough people they wanted us to bring it back," he said.

Adam Topaha, 5, of Farmington, competes in the junior boys fancy category at the Totah Festival pow wow on Sept. 3 outside the Farmington Civic Center.

Local artists submit entries for the contest, and festival organizers choose a winning image for the festival poster. The winner will be announced Friday night during a reception for the festival's juried art competition at the Civic Center.

"Sometimes it's a sculpture, sometimes it's a painting, sometimes it's a piece of folk art," Wilsey said of the pieces that have won in the past. "It can really be any art form, but one we think will translate well into a poster format."

Read:Dance expo new addition to Totah Festival

The work of past festival poster winners has been on display for several weeks at the Farmington Museum. "The Totah Festival Poster Retrospective" features the winning poster from every festival since 1989. The show remains on display through Oct. 31.

A dancer performs during last year's Totah Festival at the Farmington Civic Center. The event returns this weekend.

This year's festival will mark the return of the Cultural Expo from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, the second year that attraction has been part of the festival. It features dance performances by a variety of Native groups, including the Poleahla Hopi Dancers from Hotevilla, Ariz.; the Ukestine Zuni Dancers from Zuni, and the Dinehtah Navajo Dancers from Arizona and New Mexico.

Wilsey said the Cultural Expo was an immediate success when it made its debut last year.

"It was actually incredible," he said. "We held it inside the theater (at the Civic Center, and (the performers) were spectacular. They were funny, and they were incredibly costumed. It was a great performance."

Read:Totah Festival strives to keep culture alive

The dance performances will be moved outside this year and will be held on the festival grounds.

Visitors to last year's Totah Festival examine some of the hundreds of weavings that were offered in the event's Navajo rug auction.

Saturday's offerings will be led by a contest pow wow featuring gourd dancing from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and a grand entry at 2 p.m. Both days of the festival will feature the juried art competition inside the Civic Center.

"This is the premier event within the region to buy Native American art," Wilsey said. "We've got several new artists coming in this year, including one artist who does skateboard art."

Saturday's lineup also includes a Navajo rug auction at 1 p.m.

"We expect to get in anywhere from 250 to 300 Navajo weavings," Wilsey said.

Wilsey said the various offerings at the festival are designed to get visitors to attend for more than a single day. Even the reception Friday night is open to the public, he noted.

Darnell Etsitty, of Tohatchi, and the Sun Eagle Singers perform at the Totah Festival pow wow on Sept. 3 at the Farmington Civic Center.

"A lot of times, people come on Saturday for the pow wow, but they need to come back on Sunday to see the incredible dance troupes," he said.

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If you go

What: The Totah Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: The Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St.

Admission: Free

For more information: Call 505-599-1174 or visit