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Officials: Northern Navajo Nation Fair will take place as scheduled

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Dan Smith, Northern Navajo Nation Fair board chairman, gives a presentation on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 in regards to the Northern Navajo Nation Fair at the Shiprock Chapter House.

SHIPROCK — Two officials for the 106th Northern Navajo Nation Fair told an audience on Tuesday evening that the fair will proceed as planned next month.

Fair Board President Dan Smith and Fair Director Roy Lee Hosteen announced the fair will take place Oct. 5-8 during a community meeting at the Shiprock Chapter house on Tuesday.

Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie said the meeting was organized to quash rumors that have developed in regards to the fair and to provide an update about the event.

The status of the fair came into question after the Northern Navajo Agency Council approved measures in August that removed fair board members and annulled the 2012 plan of operation for the fair board.

Community members attend a special meeting regarding the Northern Navajo Nation Fair on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 at the Shiprock Chapter House.

Smith said the tribal council's Office of Legislative Counsel reviewed the action by the agency council and deemed it illegal because they have no authority to remove board members.

"They stood behind us on that," he said.

Changes in this year's fair, including eliminating the powwow, were prompted by the financial state of the fair, Smith said.

He said when he became fair board chairman in February, the event had $20,000 in outstanding debt and other financial discrepancies that he and others have been working to clear.

Dan Smith, Northern Navajo Nation Fair board chairman, goes over a list of questions during a special meeting regarding the Northern Navajo Nation Fair on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 at the Shiprock Chapter Hous

Smith said the work occurring at the fairgrounds is being completed by volunteers and by electricians, carpenters and welders who are paid $6 an hour.

In an interview Wednesday, Hosteen said revenue coming into the fair is being used to address structural issues at the fairgrounds.

They are also seeking help from sponsors, and have received donations of materials to complete renovations, Hosteen said.

Other changes for the fair are relocation of the rodeo arena and placement of the Indian Market inside the fairgrounds.

Community members attend a special meeting regarding the Northern Navajo Nation Fair on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 at the Shiprock Chapter House.

Jan Trujillo has sold Navajo baked goods for 15 years at the Indian Market and was among vendors who questioned the market's relocation.

She said the move will hurt her business because customers are used to visiting the market without having to pay an entrance fee.

"I think the Indian Market should stay where it is because there is a lot vendors who come sell," Trujillo said.

David Joe's food stand, Joe's Diner, was among those located near U.S. Highway 491.

He was also concern about the revenue impact his business would take due to operating inside the fairgrounds.

Dan Smith talks about the fair ground improvements currently underway, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017 at the Northern Navajo Nation Fairgrounds in Shiprock.

"Food vending is very flexible outside the gates," Joe said. "Gates close at 10 at night and open at 8 in the morning."

As ambassador for the fair, Miss Northern Navajo Alexandria Holiday attended the meeting because people have been asking her questions about the fair's status.

Her concern centered on the safety of pageant contestants since she heard the contest will happen at the fairgrounds rather than at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center.

She said during the pageant, contestants store valuables and change outfits backstage and at the performing arts center, access to that area is limited.

"I want to make sure that those things are going into account at the fairgrounds as well," Holiday said.

At the fairgrounds Wednesday, Hosteen talked about renovations to the outdoor area.

Duane "Chili" Yazzie presides over a meeting about the Northern Navajo Fair on Tuesday, Sept. 5 ,2017 at the Shiprock Chapter House.

Hosteen said as part of the effort to increase safety, electric and water lines are being brought into compliance with safety codes and stadium lighting will be installed at the rodeo arena and Indian Market.

Another aspect to the project is making the fairgrounds accessible to people with disabilities, he said.

"This is a community property. It's a place where community gather, it needs to be safe," Hosteen said.

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

Work contiunes  on the construction of a new rodeo arena on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017 at the Northern Navajo Nation Fairgrounds in Shiprock.
Roy Lee Hosteen, Northern Navajo Fair director talks during an interview on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017 at the Northern Navajo Fairgrounds in Shiprock.