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SHIPROCK — Lorenzo Manygoats was among the painters, carpenters and welders who were putting the final touches on the Northern Navajo Nation Fairgrounds today.

As part of his work, he helped repaint the exterior walls of the exhibit hall that will house information booths and exhibits during the 105th annual Northern Navajo Nation Fair.

Manygoats said he remembers attending the fair as a child and applied for a job because he wanted the fairgrounds to be in good condition when the fairgrounds open at 7 a.m. Thursday.

"It feels good. It makes you feel proud," Manygoats said.

Activities scheduled for Thursday include Elder Fest starting at 9 a.m. and Youth Day activities beginning at 10 a.m.

The Indian Market and the carnival will also open, followed by a free barbecue from 4 to 6 p.m. at the City Market parking lot, night performances at 6 p.m. at the rodeo arena and gospel night at 6 p.m. at the Indian Market tent.

The fair continues through Sunday.

Although the fair gets underway Thursday, the Miss Northern Navajo and Miss Northern Navajo Teen pageants start Tuesday morning.

This year's contestants for Miss Northern Navajo are Autumn Mike, 18, from Upper Fruitland, and Alexandria R. Holiday, 18, from Table Mesa.

Contestants for the Miss Northern Navajo Teen pageant are Kailiah Lee, 17, from Shiprock; Ariana Roselyn Young, 17, from Teec Nos Pos, Ariz.; and Noellani Buck, 17, from Shiprock.

During the first round of competition on Tuesday, the five contestants will prepare and cook Navajo foods. The Miss Northern Navajo contestants will prepare chiichin, a pudding made from sumac berries, and da'iist'aaz, which are tortillas cooked over a fire. Contestants in the teen pageant will cook blue corn mush and frybread.

Contestants will also undergo personal interviews and demonstrate contemporary and traditional talent skills before a coronation ceremony at 4 p.m. Friday at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center.

Lynelle Washburn has served as pageant coordinator for four years and has continued to develop the pageants.

She said today that the competition is an outlet for participants to develop skills, and it encourages contestants to continue learning Navajo culture and language.

"Whether they win or lose, they take something from the pageant," Washburn said.

Food vendors have also opened their businesses at the fairgrounds.

For 15 years, the Joe family has traveled from Cove, Ariz., to set up their food stand, Joe's Diner, at the fair. David Joe was among 10 family members, ranging in age from 20 to 85 years old, working at the stand today.

"Everyone has an assignment, everyone has a specific role," Joe said, adding his duties include working as host, server and cashier and clearing tables.

The menu consists of 12 items, including roasted mutton and ribs, steamed corn stew, turkey legs, beef brisket and steak fajitas. Continuing through the end of the fair, the family's business will operate daily from 7 a.m. to midnight.

When asked why the family returns year after year, Joe replied, "Other than tradition, the heritage, the culture and its togetherness, not only for us but for our friends and relatives. Many people come here every year to eat, visit."

Another food stand in operation today was Atcitty Concession, which offers a menu that includes vegetable stew, squash and corn, Navajo burgers, Frito pies, steamed corn stew, hot dogs and curly fries.

Roberta Atcitty's family started operating the stand to raise money for her daughters when they played basketball for Kirtland Central High School.

Her daughters are now adults and continue to help run the business alongside their husbands and children.

"Everybody knows their spots," Atcitty said. "All the girls have a different job to do. My grandson (is) the curly fries and hamburger guy. The grill is his."

The family prepares at least three weeks before the fair, cutting and freezing the mutton, but if material runs low, other vendors help out, she said.

"You kind of get to know them then you start helping each other," Atcitty said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

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