Indian Taco Championship canceled

Robert Smith

The Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce last week announced the cancellation for this year of a social and culinary event that has been developing into a tourist attraction — the National Indian Taco Championship, which takes place in early October.

The Indian Taco Championship has been cited by state tourism officials for its excellence. It features fierce competition among makers of Indian Tacos, music, Native American ceremonial dancing and a lot of casual socializing on Kihekah Avenue in Pawhuska.

“It’s sad,” Chamber Executive Joni Nash said of the cancellation. “It’s an event that’s won state awards, but it’s just the world we’re in right now.”

Nash pointed out that the Indian Taco Championship is a food event involving lots of people in a relatively small space, and she said there was no good way to regulate the event for safety during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Indian Taco Championship is one of two events the Chamber of Commerce has canceled in recent weeks because of concerns about the transmission of COVID-19. It has also canceled until next year its annual gala fundraiser. That event is usually held at the Elks Lodge, and draws a large crowd for a dinner and auction.

To date in 2020, the COVID-19 health crisis has also caused cancellations of the Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping, some portions of Cattlemen’s Week, and at least one element of the Cavalcade Rodeo. The spread of COVID-19 in Pawhuska has been fairly limited, with 38 positive tests and no deaths reported as of Monday morning. Thirty-one of the 38 COVID-19 patients had recovered, leaving seven active cases in the Pawhuska area by the beginning of this week.

Kelly Bland, director of Osage County Tourism, said in a Monday meeting of the county commissioners that potential visitors’ interest in Osage County remains strong. Bland attributed that continued interest to the county’s rural location and ability to offer outdoor activities and events. Bland also attributed strong attendance last weekend at the annual Shidler Car Show to a new marketing campaign she has undertaken.