Friday, April 20, 2018

Founders and Frybread – An Unbeatable Combination

Bluff’’s second annual Founders Day and Frybread Festival wrapped up two weeks ago, and this year it was expanded into a two-day celebration. Several new events enlivened the festival and spread the party all over the Bluff landscape.

Friday, April 6, featured offerings at Bluff Fort during the morning. Traditional crafts, like rag-rug weaving, offered an opportunity to reach across generations to recreate life among the pioneering families who reached this site adjacent to the San Juan River in 1880.

One of the most popular attractions was the demonstrations held in the blacksmith shop at the Fort. Old and young visitors were attracted to the clanging of hammers on anvil and learned to appreciate the skill needed to forge useful items from cold steel.

A new event, a local and regional Storytelling Session, was held in a beautiful new outdoor porch area at the Desert Rose Inn, located at the southern end of town. With the southern bluffs of the San Juan in the background, listeners heard tales of the Ancestral Puebloan people, Mormon settlers, cowboys, and other bits of local lore.

Another new event was the concluding event for Friday night. Billed as a square dance, it was that and more. Reels and promenades took a back seat when local teenagers let loose in a spirited version of the Cotton-Eye Joe. 

Saturday morning began with the annual parade from the Community Center to the Twin Rocks parking lot. Entries included revered senior citizens, groups representing the original families of Bluff, a Bluegrass band, and a few horses, both large and small.

Native American royalty, both Navajo and Ute, were well represented in the parade. The Blue Mountain Unity float was complete with a princess, Pendleton blankets, and all the appropriate jewelry and traditional costumes.

Aldean Ketchum, of the White Mesa Ute community located just north of Bluff, played his flute and helped lead a Bear Dance for visitors. The Ute community provided a new tipi, which soon became a favorite location for photographers and their subjects to use as a great backdrop for pictures.

The San Juan County School District Student Art Show and Sale was held upstairs in the Bluff Fort Co-op building. Young artists from the region demonstrated their work in painting, ceramics, and other creative skills in this annual juried show and sale.

On Saturday afternoon, most of the Founders Day activities shifted to Twin Rocks, where Joann Johnson and her mother Betty Rock Johnson demonstrated Navajo basket weaving. Skilled as both a teacher and a weaver, Joann shared her techniques of preparing and weaving sumac reeds into beautiful works of art.

FRYBREAD UP! Each contestant was given a four-ounce piece of Twin Rocks frybread and told to get chewing. It sounds easier than it is, especially with a crowd cheering (and jeering) you on.  

The ever-popular Frybread Fling was divided into two divisions, Juvenile and Old-Timers. Santiago Davila won the Juvenile Division and walked away with a 20-pound bag of Blue Bird Flour as his reward.

Spenser Simpson dominated the Senior Fling competition with a Herculean toss of 89.5 feet, obliterating the previous record by almost ten yards. Preparation, practice, and a favorable wind were all elements in Spenser’s victory, the concluding episode in Bluff Founders Day and Frybread Festival for another year.