What a difference a year can make. That was certainly true for the 44th Annual Western Navajo Fair Powwow in Tuba City, Arizona, which exceeded all expectations with its large turnout and exceptional organization. Starting on October 19 and concluding after midnight the following evening, the event demonstrated how good a usually small pow wow can be when the right people are in charge.
Many attendees were startled to see that the pow wow was held in a very large and elegant white tent. This came as a pleasant surprise after last year’s event, whose site was a rundown arbor. But maybe the new venue shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise, given that the new pow wow boss was none other than the trusted Wanda Brown.
“This year we got a big 100-by-200-foot tent accommodating everything and everyone,” pow wow coordinator Brown said. “We decided to go big and people seem to really like it.”
In her first year coordinating the event, Brown credited her hard working staff for making her look good. She praised the Western Navajo Fair committee for putting their full support behind her and the pow wow and event sponsor for much of the infrastructure, including the tent.
More than 100 dancers participated in Saturday afternoon’s grand entry, with a number of them attending the event for the first time. Many were curious to see for themselves if this pow wow had improved under new management. The answer was a resounding yes.
Visiting the Western Navajo Fair Powwow for the first time, northern traditional dancer Earl Sherman of Twin Lakes, New Mexico described the venue as something to be admired after a long pow wow season full of less than optimal conditions. Sherman, who is usually in Phoenix at this time of year, decided to come with his whole family.
“The atmosphere here is so much better,” Sherman said. “Other places are rocky and dusty and here the gate people are nice to us.”
The night was long with many winner-take-all specials taking place. Among them were women’s fancy, men’s northern traditional, teen and junior jingle and many more. Taking advantage of the men’s traditional special, Malcolm Murphy of Window Rock gave it his all while competing with many of his childhood friends.
“I think this has been a pretty good pow wow that Wanda put on because there are a lot of champion dancers and great drum groups,” Murphy said. “I’ve been dancing with all these guys all my life, but I did my own thing; I got some good moves in and told a story.”
In the end, the pow wow committee and especially Brown got loud applause from the crowd and dancers. However, she was quick to deflect attention from herself and accord high praise to those around her instead.
“I was asked, and I accepted; but it wasn’t just me,” Brown said. “I had a lot of help from the head staff, professional people like Kenny Donaghey, the PR staff and everybody else who contributed.”