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Tribes gather from around the country at Gallup Ceremonial

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Every August thousands of visitors head to Gallup for the Indian Ceremonial. (Journal)

Every August thousands of visitors head to western New Mexico for the Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial. (Journal)

Every August, the Native American cultures that are part of the fabric of Gallup, N.M., become the focal point of the community as tribes gather from around the country for parades, dancing, rodeo and more.

The Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial is expected to draw upward of 50,000 spectators, says Teri Frazier, the Ceremonial’s executive director. Most events will be at Red Rock State Park.

“This is Gallup’s way of honoring Native Americans, and it’s something which is identified with Gallup. People who come here know we guarantee it’s the real deal, from the authentic dances and regalia, to the art, the crafts and the food.”

About 14 dance troupes will perform in the main arena, but more than 40 tribes will be represented. Among them will be Cheyenne and Chickasaw from Oklahoma; Apache, Pima, Navajo and Hopi from Arizona; Aztec and Miwuk from California; Voladores from Mexico; and a large New Mexico contingent including Navajo, San Juan, Taos, Zuni, Jemez and Laguna.

Spectators, both Native Americans and non-Native Americans, come from all over the United States and foreign countries, including Canada, France, Germany and Japan, according to event organizers.

What’s happening

Regular rodeo events, dancing, art exhibits and special events will be held each day.

All events, except parades through Downtown Gallup, will be at Red Rock State Park.

The city of Gallup is also excited about the annual Ceremonial, says Bill Lee, chief executive officer and president of the Gallup/ McKinley County Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s one of the state’s oldest events, and it’s been a lifeblood-sustaining event for our community in terms of the economy. It is something that our community overall takes great pride in as well as ownership. When it comes to defending it and keeping it here in our community, we’re all united.”

Planning ahead

Lee conservatively estimates the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial generates $2 million in the community, “and each of those dollars is turned over at least three times,” he says.

Gallup has close to 2,000 hotel rooms for rent and hundreds of camping and RV sites. Nearly all get sold out during the Ceremonial so he recommends planning ahead and booking a room early. The good news for people living in the Albuquerque area is, even if rooms in Gallup are unavailable, the drive is less than 2½ hours via I-40, so it makes for an easy day trip.

“Like so many other things around our state, we have an incredible abundance of tourist assets, and the Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial is one of the crown jewels on the yearly tourist calendar,” Lee says. “Visitors here will see absolutely the best artists covering all genres and from traditional to contemporary and the dancing is truly unique and beautiful.” In addition, the rodeo is “great fun” and attracts world-class Native American rodeo professionals. Further, Lee says, visitors will get to experience the splendor of Red Rock State Park, with its majestic red cliffs framing the park on three sides and its natural amphitheater and seating.

For admission fees and schedule of events go to theceremonial.com.

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