The financial statements are in and the Mogollon Sporting Association's 1999 banquet --held May 1 at the Mazatzal Casino --was officially the most successful in the organization's seven-year history.
The annual banquet, MSA Treasurer Pat Willis said, drew net earnings of $42,266.18, which represents an increase of about $5,000 over what was earned at last year's banquet.
Willis said the reason for the healthy increase was a capacity crowd of about 250 people, who enthusiastically purchased from an expanded raffle and auction list that included almost 50 firearms.
"Those are what seems to sell the raffle tickets and bring in the money," Willis said.
Also, Payson-area businesses responded to the call of the MSA with almost $14,500 in grants, donations and sponsorships.
"The businessmen really turned out to sponsor the MSA," Willis said. "I've worked with a lot of these things but I've never seen one receive as much support as the MSA does. People want to get behind what the association does."
According to Willis, the overwhelming popularity of the sporting association is probably because all the money the organization earns is eventually poured back into the local economy.
"It stays here -- that's important to people," he said.
The mission statement of the MSA, written in 1992, states, "to enhance wildlife, environment, education and our economy in the Mogollon Rim country by supporting local quality game management and our local business."
Where's it go?
After each of its yearly banquets, MSA members gather to decide where to disperse the earnings. Traditionally, half is awarded to youth programs and the other half to wildlife and habitat enhancement projects in and around Payson.
This year's funding recommendations, made last week, awarded $18,000 to the youth projects. Wildlife donations will be decided at future meetings.
The association plans on banking about $10,000 in reserves, MSA member Russ Kinzer said.
Biggest benefactors of the MSA donations were the Rim Country Middle School and Payson High School softball teams, who received $2,500 to purchase new uniforms.
Also, the boys' basketball teams at RCMS were given $2,100 for new uniforms.
The MSA members also decided to sponsor three tournaments that are held locally, giving $1,500 each to PHS volleyball, girls' basketball and wrestling programs.
The funds support the Tim Van Horn Memorial Wrestling Tournament, Holiday Hoops Girls' Basketball Tournament and the Lady Longhorn Volleyball Invitational.
The cross-country team received $250 to help finance the Sludge to the Judge homecoming run.
The PHS girls' basketball and soccer teams received $800 each for new uniforms.
Other allocations from the MSA went to purchase a banner for the PHS music program, tumbling mats and safety belts for the Longhorn cheerleaders, $500 to the speech/debate team and $258 in scholarships which will be used to help youngsters in financial need.
Since the inception of the MSA, Kinzer said, the organization has donated more that $80,000 to extracurricular programs in the school district. Coaches say they are extremely grateful for the support because the money is used for purchases or needs that might not be possible in the already stretched-tight athletic budgets of the school district.
Most of the MSA awards to wildlife projects have been used in hunt Unit 22 near Payson.
Funds have been donated for controlled burns, seeding projects, habitat improvements and spring developments.
Another important target of the MSA fund is the building and repair of water guzzlers for elk, deer and waterfowl.
The MSA is also one of the chief financial backers of the annual wildlife fair and fishing derby held each spring in Green Valley Park.
About three years ago, MSA purchased two state-of-the-art metal detectors for Arizona Game and Fish Department officers to use in investigations of poachings and illegal killings.
The banquet is officially over but it won't be long before MSA members begin laying plans for next year's festivities, hoping to make it even bigger, better and more successful.
"This is a year-round project," Kinzer said.