Totah Festival board announces cancellation of annual Labor Day weekend event

Gathering showcases Native art, dance and music

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Adam Topaha, of Farmington competes in the junior boys Fancy Dance during the 2016 Totah Festival outside the Farmington Civic Center. This year's event has been canceled.

FARMINGTON — Another longtime Farmington tradition has gone by the wayside this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make it impossible to hold large gatherings.

Following in the footsteps of such local iconic events as Riverfest and the Connie Mack World Series, the board of directors of the Totah Festival & Indian Market announced June 17 that the 32nd annual edition of the gathering has been canceled.

The festival — which showcases the work, music and dance of Navajo people and members of other tribes — was scheduled to take place Sept. 4-6 at the Farmington Civic Center. It had been held each year since its inception in 1988 and attracts thousands of visitors.

The board announced its decision in a post on its Facebook page and on its website.

"Due to the uncertainty of future events ongoing during this pandemic, the board of directors reached a consensus that cancelling the event would be in the best interest for our artists, attendees and the community," the post states.

The post includes an apology from the board for the cancellation and includes a note from organizers explaining that they hope to see festival visitors again in 2021.

Darnell Etsitty, of Tohatchi, and the Sun Eagle Singers perform at the 2016 Totah Festival outside the Farmington Civic Center.

Cecelia Begay, the board president, said the decision was a painful one for board members.

"We had been talking about this for a few months now and waiting to see if anything came up or not," she said.

Board members were hoping for a dramatic turn in the battle against the pandemic that would allow large gatherings to resume. But by the middle of June, they realized they had run out of time to prepare for this year's event. So they made the only decision they could, Begay said.

More:Organizers cancel Riverfest due to coronavirus pandemic

She said organizing the festival is something that proceeds on a year-round basis, with plans for the next event beginning in the immediate aftermath of the previous one. A silver lining to this year's cancellation is that it will give the festival board extra time to prepare for next year's event, she said.

Begay said the board is intent on bringing the festival back after this year's cancellation.

"We're looking forward to 2021," she said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.