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The Northern Navajo Nation Fair has delighted crowds for more than a century. It returned to Shiprock for the 108th year this week. Sam Ribakoff, Farmington Daily Times

Elder Fest brings together Four Corners-area senior centers and strengthens relationships among clan members, according to an event host

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SHIPROCK — Alex Begay smiled broadly when asked about his plans for the watermelon he won for playing musical chairs at Elder Fest during the 108th Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock.

"I'm going to eat it," the 76-year-old said with a chuckle.

Elder Fest is designed to bring together the senior citizens centers in the Four Corners and to strengthen relationships among clan members, said Marilen Lee, a host for the event.

Lee along with her husband, Guy Lee, have conducted the event at the fair for nine years.

"This is family for us," she said.

Dozens of older people gathered underneath the large tan tent. They socialized with each other and participated in Navajo song and dance and games, such as food scramble, musical chairs and roping.

"We try to get everybody involved with the elderly. Because we see a lot of the elderly get left alone at home, so we try to tell the agencies from the senior citizens programs to gather those individuals and to bring them out into the community," Lee said.

It also bridges generations by encouraging communication and the elderly enjoy watching the youth sing traditional Navajo songs, she added.

Students from the powwow club at Tsé Bit A'í Middle School in Shiprock sang three songs during the opening ceremony for Elder Fest.

Elvin Keeswood, the school's heritage language teacher, said the group was asked to perform and they sang Northern style powwow songs.

"They're real honored. When we told them that they're going to sing for the grandmas and grandpas, they got all excited," Keswood said.

Students from Northwest High School in Shiprock also helped with Elder Fest.

Delaine Loley and other students passed out water to attendees.

"It's cool," he said about the event.

Elsewhere at the fairgrounds, 4-H'ers were showing lambs as part of the livestock competition.

Izaiyah Morgan is a member of the Oak Ridge 4-H Club in Gallup. His Suffolk lamb, Spark, finished in fourth place for the lightweight class.

"What I like about the competition, it builds up your strength when you're pushing the lamb," Morgan said. "You learn life skills from it."

The fair continues through Oct. 6. For more information, visit the Facebook page for the 108th Northern Navajo Nation Fair.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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