Big crowds expected for annual Haskell Indian Art Market

Haskell University junior Grace Denning dances and beats a drum as freshman Andy Piscoya looks during a dance they and other members of the school's Alaskan Club performed Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at the 28th annual Haskell Indian Art Market.

Anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 people are expected to attend this weekend’s Haskell Indian Art Market, many on the lookout for hidden treasures among the tents.

“I think the exciting part for visitors is finding that good deal,” said Lee Pahcoddy, facilities manager at Haskell.

Pahcoddy, a longtime sponsor of the event, said the Art Market provides a rare opportunity for lovers of traditional Native American arts and crafts. It’s not unusual, he said, to see customers engaging in some good-natured haggling with artists — if you play your cards right, you could score some serious gems at lower-than-average prices.

The Haskell Indian Art Market, now in its 29th year, will host about 140 artists from across the country from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10 at the Haskell powwow grounds near 23rd Street and Haskell Avenue.

This year’s inventory ranges from pottery, sculpture, paintings and prints to handmade flutes, knives and woven rugs, though jewelry remains the biggest draw, Pahcoddy said.

Most of the artists come from New Mexico, Arizona and surrounding states, bringing with them the Southwestern-style silver-and-turquoise designs associated with Apache, Hopi, Navajo and other tribes from the region.

Pahcoddy, a member of the Comanche tribe, said the jewelry has remained one of his favorites in his 20-plus years organizing the festival. He also enjoys seeing artists explain their techniques and practices. Some will craft their wares right in front of you, Pahcoddy said.

“The jewelry makers usually have their materials here, and showing what type of stone they use,” he said. “From beginning to end — how they construct it, how they polish it and how they put it on the jewelry.”

As in years past, the festival will also feature traditional Native American singing, dancing and drumming, with performances from various groups slated for noon, 2 and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Visitors can fill up on Native American staples like corn, beans, soups, meat pies and, of course, the ever-popular Navajo taco.

A meal, with drink and food, should set you back about $5 to $7, Pahcoddy said; original pieces at the Art Market start at about $20. Admission and parking are free.

Without a doubt, the Art Market is Haskell’s biggest event of the year, Pahcoddy said. Earning a nod in Kansas Magazine’s top 70 bucket-list experiences in the Sunflower State, he said, helped put the Haskell Indian Art Market on the map in recent years. Some folks trek to Lawrence from across the country year after year for the event, Pahcoddy said.

It’s also one of the university’s biggest fundraisers for its students.

Lots of students, representing Haskell sports teams, greek chapters and other clubs, help out at the event. The university regularly hires students to assist with hospitality, food service, parking, trash pickup and other festival tasks, with all earnings profiting those students’ organizations.

Student artists also sell their wares under the tents, taking home every dollar earned.

“It’s mostly to benefit the students,” Pahcoddy says of the hugely popular festival. “We showcase student artists and give them an opportunity to showcase their craft, and this is a good venue for that to happen.”