It is time once again for the spotlight to swing north to the mountain hamlet of Pine for three consecutive days of small-town fun.
The 47th annual production of the Northern Gila County Fair opens there Friday, starring gardeners, crafters, painters, photographers and animals.
Organizers offer a newer, expanded fair with more classes and activities in the animal divisions "to give the fair-goer more variety," said Wendell Stevens, Payson High's FFA teacher and devout fair volunteer.
All entries, except animals, must be brought to the Community Center on Highway 87 in Pine and tagged on Thursday between noon and 6 p.m.
The Community Center in downtown Pine will open its doors from noon to 5 p.m. Friday for all to browse the best the northern part of Gila County has to offer. The offerings of local photographers will be found alongside some of the best homegrown goodies this side of the Mogollon Rim. You can stroll amongst flowers, hand-sewn quilts and paintings.
Cookies, cakes, pies, home canned fruits, vegetables, jams and jellies will tempt your tummy.
The doors will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. At 4 p.m. Sunday, all exhibitors must pick up their entries and prizes.
Admission is free.
The fair's critter gig will start Friday at 10 a.m. in the County Barn on Old County Road in Pine, with a weigh-in of the one lamb, four steers and seven hogs that make up the 4-H/FFA livestock available for auction.
At 11 a.m., a new equestrian event will debut. Cart drivers and their horses will compete in pleasure, course and obstacle course driving at the nearby arena on Old County Road in Pine. The Arizona Driving Association and Payson Feeds are sponsoring prizes.
At 2 p.m., the livestock and their handlers will take to the arena for the showmanship class. At 3:30 p.m., a special dedication of the arena will take place. Family and friends of the late Mary Ellen Randall are encouraged to attend this special event.
At 4 p.m., another new addition -- working ranch horses -- will take to the arena. For a $10 entry fee, horses and rider will be judged on working cattle, opening a gate, crossing a bridge, and more. The fair board will match the totals, and first and second place will take home the whole pot.
On Saturday, there is another new addition: small animals are being brought in a day early for fair-goers to enjoy. In place by 8 a.m., rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens and roosters will join the horses, steers, hogs and one lamb for a Saturday full of activity in the county arena and barn.
At 8 a.m., the traditional open horse show starts, with western riders taking to the arena first, followed by the English riders.
Some regulars to the fair will tell you the most entertaining action happens at 11 a.m. on Saturday during the 4-H/FFA auction. This is where that one sheep, four steers and seven hogs go to the highest bidder. Bidding is encouraged, and not just for the business owner. Anyone who eats meat is welcome to bid -- these animals were raised to be butchered.
At noon, there will be a buyers' dinner, and the buyers eat free. For a nominal fee, even those who were outbid can get a meal from 4-H/FFA supporters.
Sunday, a whole new class of animal will be shown for the first time at the fair. From 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. local llama handlers will compete for ribbons in 10 different classes, including obstacle, pack and handling.
The small animals will be judged in the morning, and the horse Fun Day will start at 1 p.m. A just-for-fun competition, organizers have saved the rules for the day of the show. Games such as carrying an egg horseback, ribbon running and pole bending were popular last year.