Renovation of Civic Center triggers event's relocation this year

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FARMINGTON — A lot of things will be different when the Totah Festival kicks off its 30th annual installment Friday night. It's being held at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park because its traditional home at the Farmington Civic Center is being renovated.

But museum director Bart Wilsey notes that the most important thing about the event will remain the same.

"It's the signature cultural event here in Farmington for Four Corners Native American cultures," he said.

The festival is a three-day showcase of Native dancing, weaving, visual art, music and food. It long has ranked as one of Farmington's more widely anticipated annual celebrations, with it and Riverfest serving as figurative bookends for the end and beginning of summer in the area, respectively.

For years, it has found a comfortable home amid the spacious grounds at the Civic Center. But with that facility sidelined this year, the Farmington Museum became the obvious stand-in for that location, even if things might feel a little squeezed this year.

"We've had some challenges, but, obviously, we're working them out, and it will happen," Wilsey said of the museum staff's efforts to accommodate the festival.

Wilsey is especially pleased to have his museum welcome the event during a milestone year.

"This is the 30th anniversary of the Totah Festival, so it's fantastic that it's gone on this long and that we can keep the tradition alive," he said. "We're going to make a plan and still pull it off. And not only are we pulling things off, we're adding to it this year."

The festivities get underway at 5 p.m. Friday with the presentation of awards for the juried art competition and the unveiling of this year's festival poster. Activities resume from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday with the festival itself.

New to the festival this year is a fashion show scheduled for noon on Saturday with Native designers Jolonzo Goldtooth and Penny Singer featured. The two have shown their designs at museum events before, and Wilsey said he was so impressed with their work he believed they would make a good addition to the festival.

"Their work is so different from what other people are doing," he said. "I thought it would add a tremendous amount to the event."

Another addition is the Totah Festival 5k run and 1-mile fun run and walk slated for 8 a.m. Sunday at Animas Park. Registration begins at 6:30 a.m. and costs $20 for the 5k and $10 for the fun run and walk.

The other festival activities are mainstays of the event. The rug auction takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday with the weavings available for viewing from 9 a.m. to noon that day. Wilsey said the auction usually attracts 200 to 250 weavings, and this year's crop includes some giants, with some rugs reaching dimensions of 6 feet by 9 feet or 10 feet. The auction will be held in the museum's education room, and Wilsey said the room is likely to be at capacity.

The contest pow wow takes place throughout the day both Saturday and Sunday with gourd dancing, drum groups, contest dancing and a grand entry each day.

The cultural expo takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and is highlighted by appearances by the Dineh-Tah Dancers, the Diamond Creek Crown Dancers, the Fire Oak Dance Group, and Joe Tohonnie Jr. and the White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers.

Festival organizers have been promoting the new location for several months, but Wilsey acknowledged he is unsure what kind of impact that will have on attendance.

"It just remains to be seen," he said, but he added that the museum itself is in a highly visible location, and he is hopeful that will bring out visitors who might not otherwise think of attending the event. He also is hopeful that a simple change of surroundings will inject new energy into the event.

"I hope it turns out well for us," he said.

Parking could be at a premium during the early stages of Saturday's activities. The Farmington Growers Market will occupy one end of the parking lot until noon that day, and that could present some problems, Wilsey said. But once that event clears out, there shouldn't be any issues, he said.

The museum is located at 3041 E. Main St. Call 505-599-1174 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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