The National Guard opened by presenting the Color Guard, and high school student, Eva Perkins, singing the national anthem.
The festival started off with Native American dancers and drummers performing a rain dance. These entertainers displayed customary Navajo clothing and beautifully danced the Fancy Shawl Dance that is a Northern style dance that originated from the Ponca Tribe back in the 1920’s. It’s also known as the Butterfly Dance, displaying poise and grace. Navajo native of San Juan County, Toni Dee and her daughter, Kerri Martin, participated in this dance. Other dancers include Xavier Martin and Edgar Haskin. Two other dances were performed called the Grass Dance and the Jingle Dress Dance, both healing styles of dance.
Ryan Benally, son of Commissioner Rebecca Benally, welcomed the performers and spectators, saying, “My mother wishes she were her, but has asked me to speak on her behalf. I thank each and every one for all they’re doing. I appreciate the unity of San Juan County residents. We are strong against a national monument with one mind, one voice. I will continue to fight for all San Juan County residents.”
Emma Holliday, accompanied by Hayley Seiter and Annette Adams, with Mark Bake on the guitar, beautifully performed I See Fire by Ed Sheeran.
Navajo comedian Pax Harvey amused and emceed the festival. His fun approaches and statements had everybody laughing hysterically.
On a more serious note he expressed, “Federal Government is trying to take over 1.9 million acres of land to build the Bears Ears National Monument. This impacts thousands of families within the area that are Native Americans and non-natives.
“The Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Haulapai, Apaches, and the Pueblo’s along with ranchers that live in the area are gaining support and letting the people know this needs to stop! We need to protect our natural resources, animals, water, air, and sacred sites.
“The San Juan Freedom Fest is to gain awareness and build a stronger supportive effort to protect the Bears Ears from becoming a national monument.”
The talented Charley Jenkins opened for Darryl Worley. Both famous country singers engaged the crowd with smiles, laughs, hoots, and haws. The day started of cloudy and promised rain, heavy winds, and cold temperatures. Surrounding areas of San Juan County were experiencing down pours, flooding and even a small tornado.
By show time the air in Blanding was nearly perfectly still, and the skies cleared.
County Commissioner Phil Lyman said, “It was a perfect night for a very special concert. Pax Harvey was hilarious, and the Native American dancers were awe inspiring. I’ve seen Charley Jenkins in concert before, but never as powerful as tonight; and Darryl Worley did more to lift the spirits of this mall close-knot community than anyone could have imagined. The event exceeded expectations in every respect.”
Resident Mandy Warner adds, “I was on my way home after the concert. The heavens opened up and it poured like crazy! It was such a great night and the weather was great!”
Approximately 1,000 people attended the event.
Items that were auctioned include a one-day, two-person guided canyoneering trip with gear from North Wash Outfitters, a guitar signed by Darryl Worley & Charley Jenkins, three yards of cement from Holliday Construction, a Browning .300 Win Mag w/ Synthetic Stock from Sean & Lynn Giddings, and a painting of Sow and Two Cubs by Toni Lacy.
Items from the Silent Auction include a one-hour flight over Bears Ears from Jason and Kara Nay, a Younique Make-Up Gift Bag, an Illuminated Moments Photo Package, and patriotic artwork from San Juan Pharmacy.
Raffled items include a metal photo of Wooden Shoe & Bears Ears and of the State Flower by Kay Shumway, a maroon wedding vase and blue eagle vase by Cedar Mesa, a Pendleton Native Design Bag, a Heaven's Avenue Walnut Signs by Mandy Warner, a Bear Plaque & Twin Quilt from Enchanted Treasures, a Baby Tricot Quilt, a Bears Ears Photo Collage by Brooke Pehrson, a Firehouse Ruin Photo by MacNeal Crank, Bears Ears Quilted Wall Art by Debbie Christiansen, and overnight stay at Hat Rock Inn and Dinner for Two at Swingin' Steaks, NuSkin Gift Bags, and carpet cleaning by Kevin Black.