A familiar “AIYEEE!” echoed through downtown Saturday as Ramona Horsechief celebrated her first-place finish in the National Indian Taco Championship.
It was the fifth local title in eight years for Horsechief. The Pawnee “Fry Bread Queen” initially competed here in 2006 and previously won crowns in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014.
“I took third my first time and was second the next year,” Horsechief said of her past history at the NITC. “Finally, I won it in 2009 — and a few times since then.”
Also repeating as champion was the Osage Sisters entry featuring Pawhuska’s Dana Daylight and Jacque Jones. The popular local team claimed the People’s Choice Award for a fourth consecutive year.
“This year was really amazing and it took a lot of effort from the entire family,” said Daylight, whose long history of NITC success included a runnerup finish in 2005, the second year the event was held.
Ideal weather and added attractions helped the 12th-annual culinary festival draw near-record attendance. Chamber organizer Patricia Counts said there were 20 cooking contestants as well as 34 vendors offering various types of merchandise and children’s activities.
The free-admission event lasted from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Indian taco dinner prices at the booths ranged from $4 to $8.
Powwow dancers entertained the crowd throughout the afternoon. There were competitive mens’s and women’s dancing events, children’s powow exhibitions and — new this year — a winner-take-all dance competition for 4-person teams.
The Indian taco contest was judged by a panel of 10 celebrity judges that included Pawhuska School Superintendent Janet Neufeld, Police Chief Rick Laird, past NITC finalist Paula Mashunkashey and KOTV “News on 6” host Craig Day. Also helping judge were state Reps. Steve Vaughan of Ponca City and Sean Roberts of Hominy, and local businesswoman Cathy Ross, who’s running against Roberts in the November General Election.
Horsechief received a first-place check in the amount of $1,500. The runnerup, Francis Soxie, also was from Pawnee. He received $1,000 for second place. Third place, and a $500 award, went to Foxtown Roland Noear of Ponca City.
The People’s Choice Award includes a $1,000 cash prize. It goes to the NITC entry receiving the largest number of tickets from volunteer judges who have paid to sample plates from the different contestants’ booths. Each of those judges is given five tickets to be used in the voting.
Hosted by the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce, this year’s championship was sponsored by the Osage Casino, Grand Lake Casino, Osage Nation, Quapaw Tribe, Enbridge Engineering and Tribal TV.