What used to be known as the Old-Timers Rodeo has turned into a well-respected, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned rodeo that's beginning to attract national stars to the Rim country.
Signed up for this weekend's competition are last year's rodeo champion Jeffrey Collins, world champion barrel racer Sherry Cervi, her husband Mike Cervi and his roping partner Kory Koontz, presently ranked seventh in the Crown Royal standings, and world champion bareback rider Mark Gomes.
Among the locals registered to participate are bullrider Jack Blaylock, and husband-and-wife team Clint and Teri James, who will compete in team roping and barrel racing.
The two-day pro rodeo event is sponsored by the Mazatzal Casino and the Tonto Apache Tribe, and is produced by the Payson Pro Rodeo Committee.
Rodeo action begins with a PRCA pre-show for Friday Family Night that features amateur and professional women's barrel racing. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the action begins between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. The entrance fee is a can of food for the Payson Food Bank.
The Gary Hardt Memorial Spring Pro Rodeo -- a Dodge Truck Series event -- officially kicks off Saturday with Payson Rodeo Grounds gates opening at 4 p.m. and the action starting at 6 p.m. Competition includes bareback riding, calf roping, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, bull riding and women's barrel racing.
Rodeo fans can kick up their heels later Saturday night at the Mazatzal Casino, where the official rodeo dance takes place. Dance to the music of Mogollon starting at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $5 at the door. Only those 21 and over will be admitted.
Sunday's action starts with a special cowboy church service at 9 a.m. The arena gates reopen at 11 a.m. Sunday, with rodeo events beginning at 1 p.m.
Admission for both days is $7 for adults, and $3 for children 6 to 12 years old. Children 5 and under are admitted free. Seniors get a $2 discount Sunday at the gate. Two-for-one tickets to the Sunday rodeo can be purchased in advance at the chamber.
For more information on the spring PRCA Rodeo, contact the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce at (800) 6PAYSON, or Rodeo Boss Bill Armstrong at 474-9440.