Totah Festival will be held Sept. 4-5, but powwow, fashion show cancelled

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Dancer Ronnie Haycock of Kayenta, Ariz., performs during the 2016 Totah Festival outside the Farmington Civic Center. The event returns to Farmington Sept. 4-5.

FARMINGTON — One of San Juan County's larger public events will return later this summer, but only in a limited fashion.

Organizers of the Totah Festival, a longtime Farmington celebration of Native culture, announced July 29 the event will take place Sept. 4-5 at the Farmington Civic Center for the 32nd year after being cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival will include a rug auction, Indian market, cultural expo, and 5k run and walk.

But some of its more popular attractions will not be held because of pandemic safety concerns, officials said in a press release. That list includes the powwow, juried art reception, showcase and fashion show.

Festival organizers voted unanimously in June to continue with the event this year, but they decided to reduce it to two days instead of its customary three days. They also decided to reduce the size of the festival by eliminating some of those aforementioned attractions.

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The Navajo rug auction will take place during this year's Totah Festival at the Farmington Civic Center, as will the Indian market, but other staples of the event, like the fashion show and the powwow, were canceled.

"Our community has been a pivotal role in our success over the past years and we wanted to host this event in the sense of unity, hope and giving our community an event to look forward to," Totah Foundation board member Robert Felson stated in the press release. "We are going back to our roots, what started it all, our artists. This for them and our community."

The elimination of the powwow from this year's lineup does not mean visitors to the festival won't be able to enjoy dancing exhibitions. The cultural expo will feature dance exhibitions both days of the festival, according to the press release, with prime events being planned for both evenings. Those exhibitions will be held outside the Civic Center, and admission will be free.

The Indian Market will take place inside and outside the Civic Center and be spread out over a total of 50 booths, the press release states.

According to the press release, planning for the Labor Day weekend festival typically begins in January each year. But foundation board members suspended preparations for this year's festival for several months until they could decide whether the event would be held.

A collection of Navajo rugs, like these photographed in 2019,  will be offered for sale in September when the Totah Festival returns to Farmington after a one-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic's health restrictions.

In the past, the festival has attracted thousands of visitors each year to its displays of art, dancing and music by members of the Navajo Nation and other Southwestern tribes. Last year's cancellation was the first in the history of the event, which first took place in 1988.

Totah official said they hope the festival can return to a three-day format for the 2022 event.

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