If you have time to travel in August, you can visit two of the largest Native American festivals in New Mexico. Many people make an annual pilgrimage to the Santa Fe Indian Market in August. But by starting over a week early and heading for Gallup, New Mexico, you can also enjoy Gallup’s Intertribal Ceremonial which takes place a week before the Santa Fe Indian Market.
Ceremonial is very different in comparison to the large Santa Fe Indian Market. But it is the differences that make it very worth attending.
Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial Tips
Plan to arrive in Gallup no later than Thursday morning of Ceremonial weekend and check in to one of the Gallup hotels. I usually stay at the Hampton Inn because of cleanliness and comfort but have been known to stay at El Rancho because of the history and fun atmosphere.
I arrive early enough to visit some of my favorite Native American jewelry haunts to see what is new. Sometimes that means arriving before Thursday. I enjoy finding unusual things for my Native American jewelry business. On your first visit to Ceremonial be sure and attend the Thursday night parade. It is a wonderful experience enjoying it next to Native American families cheering on the participants. Buy fry bread on the street from a local family and enjoy the evening.
As early as Thursday it will be time to spend a full day enjoying the activities of the Gallup Ceremonial. You can go out to Red Rock State Park at about 10 a. m. The parking lot is not usually full until later in the day or until the weekend. Most people come later in the day and stay well in to the night enjoying the dances, presentations and fun. It is important to know that there is a rodeo going on at the same time. If you are a rodeo buff, check the schedule of competitions.
I always take time to learn about the prize-winning art in the Exhibition hall. I then visit the vendors in the courtyard. Although not of the quality of what may be for sale in the Exhibit hall, the vendors are screened and you’ll see some noteworthy jewelry and art. I also enjoy the dancing and story-telling in the amphitheater.
The Gourd Dance and other traditional dances can be seen at the adjacent Powwow grounds.
When you go, be sure and pick up a schedule, either in town or at Red Rock Park. There is much happening concurrently.
Back in town, there is much going on as well. On Saturday there is a much larger parade. The Saturday parades can get quite crowded and people had suggested I go really early for a good place (usually at an intersection as that is where the dancers stop and perform). Yes, you can go late and park but you need to be prepared to walk 5 or 6 blocks to the parade route. You may end up sitting on the sunny side of the street. The parade is often a non-stop fashion show of traditional Native clothing.
From the dignitaries and politicians in their velvet shirts and Concho belts to the groups of dancers such as the Zuni Olla Maidens, there is so much to see and photograph. The parade consists of individuals, bands and groups of colorful dancers.
Consider a Side Trip to Zuni
If you have time, on Saturday afternoon or Sunday, take a half hour drive south to Zuni Pueblo to see their Culture and Arts Festival which traditionally takes place on Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. After the crowds and traffic in Gallup, it is a relief to drive out Hwy 53 through the beautiful countryside to the Pueblo of Zuni. ( Map ) Overshadowed by magestic Corn Mesa, the Pueblo is home to the Zuni, one of the most culturally intact communities of the area. Consider calling ahead to make sure this event is on and double check the times. (505) 782-7238 is the number for the Visitors Center. They also have a Facebook Page.
Arrive at the Visitors Center in time to see any scheduled dancers and be sure and see what the local vendors have for sale. You can often purchase a meal such as a hamburger or fry bread taco.
Next, you’ll be off to Santa Fe, a three-hour drive, to enjoy all the festivities associated with Indian Market.
Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial