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Thunder in the Desert to rumble into Tucson

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TUCSON, Ariz. - The event is billed as ''10,000 years of culture - 150 tribal nations - 10 days - all in one location''; and despite a full and busy agenda, organizer Fred Synder advises: ''Take your watch off and put it in your pocket,'' because nothing starts until the medicine men and the Gourd dancers finish blessing the grounds.

The year 2008 will mark the third encounter of First People's New Millennium World Fair and the Thunder in the Desert premier event at Rillito Raceway Park in Tucson.

''Native Americans feel it important to commemorate the 21st century as a special time in history,'' Synder said. ''Symbolically, a mark will be placed on a calendar stick and a design inscribed on buffalo hide to celebrate the continued existence of the people throughout the past millennium - and a recommitment made to continue the strength, beauty and endurance of tradition and culture.''

That's a tall order, but an attainable goal with the energy to be brought to the festivities.

''All our events will acknowledge the contributions Native people have made to humanity and the fabric of life which we have generously shared on Mother Earth,'' Synder said.

The first gathering of indigenous peoples from every corner of the world, from Alaska to Australia, started in 2000.

''Tribal elders requested the event to show the world and our children the contributions made by Native and indigenous peoples throughout the world. This year we're expecting over 180 tribal nations worldwide to be on hand.''

The 2007 - '08 event promises to be much larger in scope and scale than other pow wows presented here, although ''bigger and better is not the object of the event,'' according to Synder. Advance publicity promises:

''It is our intent to showcase the beauty, endurance and spirit of the Native American and other worldwide First People's culture and the World Fair Pow Wow and Thunder in the Desert will be the forum to show the world that Native Americans have survived and maintained their unique cultural values. Traditional ways of life will be honored and encouraged to flourish in the 21st century.''

The lengthy event - slated for Dec. 29, 2007 - Jan. 6, 2008 and called ''unprecedented'' by its organizers - will feature parades, dances, seminars, fashion shows and craft exhibits. ''We'll cover 16 acres of land, an area two soccer fields wide and four fields long, with an arena for competitions and social pow wows, name ceremonies, Gourd dancing and veterans activities. Each day will have a theme as we wrap some seven-theme pow wows into the overall 10-day event.'' Proceeds benefit the Reservation Creation Women's Circle Charitable Trust for the purpose of preserving and perpetuating American Indian education through scholarships.

For those who like to plan things well in advance, Thunder in the Desert is held just once every four years - so put a reminder on the calendar for the next big desert pow wow, Dec. 30, 2011 - Jan. 8, 2012.