First played in 1981, the Firecracker Invitational Slow Pitch Softball Tournament was one of the state's holiday classics, drawing teams from throughout the Valley of the Sun, eager to escape the searing desert heat. Only Fourth of July tournaments in Show Low and Prescott rivaled the Firecracker in popularity.
But the long-time tradition came to a screeching halt last year when veteran tournament director Teddy Pettet -- whose father founded the tournament -- stepped aside and PHS softball coach Cheri Brennen tried to conduct the tournament as a benefit for the Longhorn softball team.
Unable to attract enough teams to fill the field, the affair was canceled only weeks before it was to be played.
This year, Pettet has returned as tournament director, but the Firecracker is still struggling and could again be canceled if enough teams don't respond.
"We need teams," Pettet said.
Currently only three teams have entered each of the three divisions -- men's, women's and coeds.
Local teams entered include Budweiser and State Farm in the men's division and 12-Pack in coed.
To host the affair, Pettet said, he needs at least four teams in each division.
That's a big drop in numbers from the heyday of the classic when it attracted 20 to 30 teams.
The popularity of the tournament was never more evident than Independence Day 1990. With the infamous Dude Fire raging north of Payson and the eyes of the nation focused on the Rim country, the tournament went on without a hitch drawing 20 men's and eight coed teams.
The only inconvenience suffered was a lack of motel rooms for the players -- most went to forest firefighters.
The difficulty in drawing teams this summer, Pettet said, could be that there was no tournament last year so players may assume there won't be one this year. If coaches or managers of prospective teams commit to playing by mid-week, Pettet said, the tournament could be played. The men's and women's tournament would be conducted Saturday and the coed shoot-out held Sunday. The entry fee is $160.
Call Pettet at 474-5242. ext. 260 for more information.