No Fireworks For Fourth

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Folks planning to celebrate Independence Day with their faces turned skyward to watch a spectacular fireworks display will have to look outside Payson.

As of Tuesday morning, Pine was the only Rim country community planning to go through with its Fourth of July fireworks production.

Citing extreme fire danger caused by drought, Town of Payson leaders decided Monday to cancel Payson's annual fireworks celebration.

The reason Payson canceled and Pine didn't, Fire Chief John Ross said, is Pine has a wider clearing for the aerial displays than Payson does and Pine Fire Chief Paul Coe thinks his community can still safely ignite the fireworks.

"As long as the wind's not over 10 mph," Ross said, "it will be safe to shoot them off (in Pine)."

Payson, on the other hand, doesn't have enough open space around Payson High School's football field to risk lighting explosives that could spark the dry brush in the neighborhood, he said.

Pine officials don't have those concerns.

"We bring our reserves back in and put four or five trucks around the scene," Coe said. "Unless there's high winds, we've got an area where they can shoot them off without being a danger to the community."

Pine's fireworks extravaganza will take place at Pine Elementary School, beginning at dusk.

Payson leaders are being more cautious.
"There are too many green belts and trees and homes," Ross said. "Every year, we have little fires, and we're out there putting them out. We don't have a lot of resources, and if we have a couple of fires going, and don't have resources to get to a third one, we're going to lose some homes."

Further complicating matters, Ross said, the school installed an above-ground fuel storage tank about 60 feet from the town's normal pyrotechnic staging ground. If conditions had allowed the show to continue as scheduled, Ross said he would have had to move the pyrotechnic crew to the high school baseball field.

As of press time, the Tonto Apache Tribe was still considering holding its own fireworks celebration, as was the community of Young.

Fun day
Despite the dowsing of Payson's fireworks, Payson Parks and Recreation leaders still plan to sponsor a festive Fourth at Green Valley Park, with an evening concert featuring Igor's Jazz Cowboys.

The family fun day begins at 11 a.m., with games at the Green Valley Park amphitheater.

"We'll have tug-of-war, three-legged races, tortilla toss, gunny sack races, and a new game this year -- the old leap frog," Recreation Coordinator Beth Kreider said.

The Rim Country Rotary Club is selling hot dogs and sodas near the museum that afternoon, and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce will sell watermelon slices.

At 2 p.m., as the games wind down, the Rotary Club will launch its annual Duck Race over at Green Valley Lake. Folks adopting the cute little quackers will have a chance to win $12,500 in prizes.

"There will be a lull in the activities after the duck race until the concert," Kreider said.

Igor's Jazz Cowboys are a posse of musicians from the Phoenix area, performing Dixieland, Ragtime, and Western Swing. They'll take the amphitheater stage at 7 p.m., and during the concert, members of Santa's List will be selling glow ropes to push back the darkness. The concert will wrap up around 9 p.m.

For the latest information on fire conditions, restrictions or Fourth of July festivities, call your local fire department or the Payson Parks and Recreation Department at 474-5242, ext. 7.

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