Event features artists, dancers, rugs and traveling museum

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FARMINGTON — One of the more popular annual events at Aztec Ruins National Monument returns to the park on Saturday as the American Indian Cultural Arts Festival takes place.

The festival features nearly a dozen artists from pueblos and tribes throughout the Southwest, as well as dancing and a mobile museum. This will be the third year for the event, which has attracted between 500 and 800 visitors in previous years.

Park Ranger Cyresa Bloom said the artists taking part work in a variety of styles ranging from contemporary to traditional, and they will be doing demonstrations of their work on Saturday. All the work will be for sale, she said.

Traders Edison Eskeets and Kari Carlisle of the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado, Arizona, will be on hand with a collection of Navajo rugs from the oldest continuously operating trading post in the Southwest. Bloom said the traders will offer visitors insights into the history, symbolism and artistry behind the rugs, what to look for when making a purchase and how to care for the rugs. Eskeets also will offer a hands-on weaving demonstration.

One of the festival's biggest attractions will be the Wonder on Wheels Mobile Museum from the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. The 38-foot recreational vehicle features 300 square feet of exhibit and interactive space and examines the 24 Native American communities of New Mexico. This year's exhibition on the vehicle emphasizes the art of the state's indigenous peoples, as well as their traditional foods, plants and animals, according to a press release.

"It has interpretative and educational elements," Bloom said. "It has a lot of different hands-on activities. It's very interactive for kids and kids at heart."

Another highlight of the festival will be performances by the Acoma Pueblo Enchantment Dancers, who will be featured from approximately 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the plaza of the West Ruin. Bloom said visitors will be welcome to take photographs of the dancers, but shooting video is prohibited.

Concessions will be operated by the Friends of Aztec Ruins as a fundraiser for park improvements. The group also hopes to put together a silent auction for the festival, Bloom said.

The festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but Bloom said some of the artists may continue to display their work throughout the afternoon if public response warrants that. Admission to both the park and the festival is free.

Aztec Ruins is located at 725 Ruins Road in Aztec. Call 505-334-6174 or visit facebook.com/AztecRuinsNM/ and click on the "Events" tab for more information.

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

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