Two years ago the town of Bluff hosted a unique event on the Winter Solstice- a Mammoth Effigy Burning. Two local artists, Joe Pachak and JR Lancaster, with the help of some Bluff residents, built a 16 foot mammoth out of willow and cottonwood in an open lot in the center of town. The mammoth was built with the intention to not only celebrate the Winter Solstice, but also to bring awareness to the area’s history and to the mammoth petroglyph along the San Juan River near town.
Although the mammoth was definitely a work of art that could have attracted many people had it been left standing, it was built with the purpose of being burned on the Winter Solstice, and that’s just what happened. It turned into a pretty large event- a few hundred people showed up to watch flaming spears be shot at the mammoth to set it on fire.
Video credits: Larry Ruiz copyright 2013 Cloudy Ridge Productions
For the Winter Solstice this year Joe Pachak and JR Lancaster have been working on a Paleo-Bison Effigy. When I signed up for the Willow Weaving Workshop at the Bluff Arts Festival, I saw that ‘Build a Bison Sculpture’ was on the schedule of events, and was running all day long throughout the length of the Arts Festival. I saw them working on it as we drove by, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop and take a closer look. But, the fact that it was in the works in mid-October shows that it takes a LONG time to complete something like this! I missed the first one, but I’m definitely planning to attend this year! The Bison Burning has expanded and there are a few other events planned in Bluff that day prior to the Bison Burning itself. Here’s the tentative schedule for the Winter Solstice (December 21st, 2014) Bison Burning:
- Free photo workshop given by JR Lancaster, ‘How to Get the Most (With Your Camera) Out of a Flaming Megafauna’. The only workshop like it in the world! (1:00pm)
- Exhibition of bison paintings by Brent Spink at Cloudwatcher Gallery followed by music and poetry.
- Lighted bike ride through Bluff (sunset)
- Poi Fire Spinner performance
- The ignition with flaming atlatl darts followed by dancing and singing (Solstice Shuffle) (7:00pm)
*I’d like to give a big THANK YOU to Wayne Ranney for permission to use the beautiful photos from his blog, All In A Days Karma!
Distance from Bluff to lodging in San Juan County, Utah:
- Bluff: 0 miles/0 km
- Mexican Hat: 26 miles/42 km
- Blanding: 26 miles/ 42 km
- Monticello: 48 miles/77 km
- Monument Valley: 51 miles/82 km
- La Sal: 90 miles/ 145 km
For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386
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