HISTORY OF COMANCHE NATION FAIR
HOW IT ALL BEGAN - THE HISTORY OF COMANCHE NATION FAIR
By Jolene Schonchin, Comanche Nation News
The Comanche Nation Fair, in its 27th year in existence, it is the largest fair in Southwest Oklahoma and brings thousands to the events that are sponsored by the Comanche Nation employees. How the fair began is best told by its originator, former Chairman of the Comanche Nation, Wallace Coffey:
“I became chairman in 1991 and I moved home from Denver, Colo. to assume that post. At the beginning of my term I realized there was a low self-esteem amongst our people. It was evident; people were discouraged with regard to unemployment and their well-being. According to our constitution, it must improve the environment, the health, the overall well-being of our people. After praying about it for a period of time, the Comanche Fair came to me. I asked my mother, who was living at the time, if she would like to go back to Craterville Park, She said that would be wonderful. I remember being there when I was a kid.” said Coffey.
“So I began talking to Major General Fred Marty at the time. We started visiting; he came to us and we went to him. Essentially he said ‘no’ because if he allowed us to have to have it, then other tribes (the Kiowa’s) would want it. I said ‘It’s historically ours and that it’s where our winter encampment used to be’. I kept talking to him and he was very negative.
I wrote a letter to Dick Cheney, who was the secretary of defense at the time. They were starting to close military bases and I told him to close Ft. Sill down and give it back to the Comanche’s, and we will heal it. Instead of bombing this land, we will heal it. Two weeks later, I got a call from Major General Fred Marty. He said ‘Wallace we need to talk,’ and that is when we got the okay for the fair. That was up until June 1992. At the Comanche Homecoming, we passed out flyers, Comanche Fair. 1992. Craterville Park. (See back page) north of Cache.” said Coffey. “It (the fair) had all the events, horse races, food, parade, and camping church service. That Wednesday of the fair, we had a Peyote Meeting, and prayed people would come, and good feelings would be abundant, and have weather good intensions, and when they leave they will feel good about their selves. People started moving in on Thursday and the camp site was packed. There was a thivah lady from Texas who wanted to be so much Comanche. She camped at the fair. I told her that she could be Comanche all she wanted but, I couldn’t put her on the roll. When she passed away she donated all her belongings to the Comanche Nation Collage,” said Coffey.
Comanche Nation Fair taken in 1992 on top of one of the mountain ranges.
“My brother Woogie was living and we had him to do an exposition dance. We had a special fancy dance contest on his behalf and it was an amazing thing. We chose September because July and August were too hot, and the end of September the seasons are just changing and it wouldn’t be too hot in the day or too cold in the night. So, it was just perfect. We had pageant Sunday evening, and after the pageant the fair was over,” said Coffey.
“I chose that time because the moon was full, and when it is full, it won’t rain. That was one of the old teachings I remembered. That one evening, the moon came over the east side of the mountains, and everyone was in awe,” he said.
“We dedicated the RH Comanche helicopter, which was being constructed at the time, at the Comanche Fair. We did the Thuwee dance and we touched with our weapons that it would be a good weapon,” said Coffey.
“The Shoshone leadership came to be with us. Edgar Monetathchi was pleased the employees were running the fair, cooking in the back that Sunday afternoon. When we got through, Tommy Wahnee prayed over the food,” said Coffey
“I didn’t think it would be this big. It has come to the point where it had really outdone itself. I think the Comanche people needed it at the time, and they are the ones who I remember; many specials taking place at the fair, many dances. We even had a switch dance.
We all met out there that money we had to pick up every piece of trash, every cigarette butt. And we gave it back the way we found it. They (Ft.Sill) couldn’t believe how well we took care of it. I told them we have not lost our environmental sense about us. We treasure Mother Earth; we pray for her, she blessed us all,” said Coffey.
The people who helped put the first fair together included Johnny Wauqua and Ozzie RedElk, who met with Ft. Sill representatives numerous times to iron-out the details of the Comanche Fair being at Craterville Park. The first Comanche Fair Committee was:
Arts and Crafts-Carlotta Nowell; Pageant-Elton Yellow-Fish; Camp Coordinator-Stephanie Harrison; Parade Kenneth-Goodin; Carnival-Bill Shoemate; Parking-U.S. Army; Church Service-George Wallace Jr.; Powwow-Jerome Tahhahwah, Bobby Wallace, Bill Fodder; Daily Programs-Bobby Wallace; Powwow Contest-Dink Nauni; Exhibits-Carlotta Nowell; Publicity-Bill Southard; Facilities-Butch Pahdocony; First Aid-Comanche Nation CHR; Run-Ken Karty; Food-Harold Pewewardy; Security- U.S. Army and Comanche Nation; Fund Raising-Romelia Kassanaviod; Souvenir Book-Barbara Goodin; Games Sunday-June Sovo; Information-Francine Monenerkit; Youth Programs-Therese Lopez
The 1992 Comanche Business Committee: Wallace Coffey-Chairman; Francine Monenerkit-Vice Chairman; Jackie L. Codopony Jr.-Secretary/Treasurer; Elton Yellowfish-Committeeman No. 1; Carol Cizek- Committeeman No 2; George Wallace Jr.-Committeeman No. 4; and Bill Shoemate- Committeeman No. 4.