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Summer Nightly Indian Dances returns

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CELEBRATING its 35th year

The Summer Nightly Indian Dances kicked off its 35th year of bringing Native American tribes to the area to share their rich traditional dances, songs, and colorful regalia. The season launched on Memorial Day and ends Labor Day, with dances beginning at 7 pm each night.

Local emcees introduce the various indigenous groups to the audience and discuss interesting facts about the performance group whomever they may be.

Each indigenous group performs ceremonial dances along with songs from their tribe. The audience then gets the opportunity to meet with the group after the show to take pictures and ask any questions they may have for the group.

This year, an assortment of Native American groups are prepared to showcase their own unique culture to the crowd. From the Pueblo of Zuni, several groups come to dance and sing, such as Cellicion Traditional Zuni Dancers, Zuni Olla Maidens, and the Kallestewa Dance Group.

Other groups to performing this year are: The Roach Family, Shelly Morningsong and Fabian Fontenelle, Taos Flying Eagle Dancers, Hopi Dance group, Ohkay Owinge dance group, Pollen Trail Dancers, and Apache White Mountain Dancers.

Theresa Fraizer, director of Summer Nightly Indian Dances, says the event is getting bigger and better.

“We’ve had over 25k plus visitors in 2017 and this year will be even better,” she said.

On debut night, visitors came from as far as Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and even Wales, United Kingdom.

With eight people on staff, the event wouldn’t function well without the help of others including the Chamber of Commerce, City of Gallup, Jennifer Lazarz, and Lodgers Tax Committee, Fraizer said.

Local Native artisans display their work in the forms of beaded jewelry, necklaces, silver and turquoise earrings, fetishes, paintings, and rings. One positive aspect of this setup is that the customer gets to meet the artisan first hand, and buys directly from the artisan knowing that they are buying truly authentic Native American crafts and jewelry.

Part of the nightly dances is not only to showcase the performers, but also to educate the audience on misconceptions of Native American Indians through emcees who themselves are Native Americans from different tribes.

Ambassadors for the nightly dances are also on hand to give out free information regarding the area as well as information about the state of New Mexico.

Returning ambassador Dawn Lovato, in her fourth year, says it’s always a pleasure to be a part of the dances.

“I think we had a great turnout and people really seem to enjoy it,” she said. “Lots of new faces, a lot of returning faces, but it looks like a really great turnout and it’s going to be a great year.”

Debut night drew in a crowd of more than 200 people to take in the traditional dances of the Cellicion Traditional Zuni Dancers, a group who is world renowned, and an integral part of the nightly dances for some years.

A unique setting in its own, the nightly dances also offers the audience a chance to try authentic and traditional Native American food on site.

Frankie Jim, of Jim’s Concessions, said the nightly dances is always a welcoming sight to downtown Gallup. In his second year, Jim sells sno-cones, soda, traditional fry bread, and Piccadilly’s to his line of snacks.

“It went pretty good,” he said of opening night. “And I like serving the community here at the dances with these munchies, and we get to meet new people.”

Frankie Jim’s wife, Loretta Jim, says their regular customers even text the couple to find out whether they will be selling Piccadilly’s  at the nightly dances.

“They say they like ours better than anyone else here in Gallup,” she said.

With the beautiful New Mexico sun starting to set and throwing its rays across the sky, the stage was set for an enchanting evening for the debut of the Summer Nightly Indian Dances.

By Dee Velasco
For the Sun