By Marissa Armas

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– Thousands flocked to the Adams County Fairgrounds for the 8th Annual Denver American Indian Festival over the weekend. After a year and a half of not being able to have in-person events because of pandemic, this year’s festival felt more crucial than ever in keeping indigenous culture alive. The event included dancers, storytellers, food, and vendors.

(credit: CBS)

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For many of the native vendors, the festival was the first event since the pandemic started that they were able to go out to sell some of their crafts. A few of the vendors told CBS4’s Marissa Armas that the weekend event was a nice coming together after not being able to gather for so long.
Ricardo Caté drove all the way to Denver from New Mexico just to sell his paintings at the two-day event.

“Because of the pandemic we’ve been indoors for like a year and a half,” said Caté. “This is our bread and butter, and so we all came up here for the sole purpose of trying to put food on the table.”

Harry Deschene and his family also made the trek up to the festival to sell jewelry.

“This is the first time I’ve ever been here for the native festival and it’s wonderful, get to meet the other vendors,” Deschene said.

(credit: CBS)

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COVID-19 hit Native Americans hard across the country, including Deschene’s community.

“We lost a lot of elders, more so than we would in a normal year, so we lost twice as much,” said Deschene.

According to data from the Colorado State Health Department, about 50% of the Native American population in the state is vaccinated. Lynn Holman, one of the festival organizers said the uptick in COVID-19 cases in the state was concerning.

“It was a touch-and-go thing for us too, do we have it, do we not, it was tough,” Holman said.

(credit: CBS)

Holman said many of the events were held outdoors, but for the inside ones, they did ask for people to wear masks. And vendors like Caté and Deschene are just glad they were able to make the trip and keep their businesses thriving.

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“It’s been a really nice atmosphere. I’m really thankful for the organizers of this event,” Caté said.

Marissa Armas