The parking lot at the Wal-Mart Supercenter was jam-packed Saturday by residents who couldn't wait to get into Payson's newest, largest store.
The 24-hour Supercenter, which Wal-Mart officials say is the largest in the state, celebrated its grand opening Saturday -- an opening that was a long time coming, Mayor Vern Stiffler told the crowd during opening ceremonies. Wal-Mart Supercenter Manager Becky Martinez introduced local Wal-Mart managers and officials from around the state.
Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce members and 10-year Wal-Mart associates cut the ceremonial ribbon, while Rim Country Middle School band members played music to shop by.
And that's just what they did.
Shoppers quickly piled groceries, clothing, appliances and household items into their carts, while the children in the crowd clung to colorful balloons.
Marilyn Stecher, a Wal-Mart cashier for two months, was one of the first to ring up a sale, $21.54 for shoes purchased by Dave and Pat Bradbury of Payson.
Toni Conder was busy in the bakery department cutting cake while Lindsey Heizer passed the sweet treats out to customers. Debby Rusovick, manager of lingere and accessories, wandered around the store for the first time.
"I've spent so much time in my department, I didn't see the rest of the store," she said. "This is a lot more than we're used to."
Rusovick proudly showed off the fitting rooms in her department, seven for the women and three for the men, including larger rooms for disabled customers.
"Nobody who works here knows where everything is because we've all been so busy," she said.
Rusovick was joined by Chris Belkowski, a floor associate in the infants' and girls' section. The two women stood there admiring the job the set-up crew did.
Cliff Potts, a former mayor of Payson, strolled by, pushing his 2-year-old granddaughter Kristin in a cart. Potts was looking for a jacket for the little girl.
"It's the event of the day," he said. "Isn't it really a crowd here?"
Additional entertainment was provided throughout the morning by the Payson High School Choir, the Rim Civic Orchestra, and the WWII Veterans' Color Guard.
National foodstuff celebrities The Keebler Elf, The Oreo Cookie Man, Chester Cheetah and Mr. Peanut wandered around the store shaking hands and making friends with the youngsters.
Outside in the parking lot, young and old alike marveled at the treasures in a classic car show.
By the end of the day, more than 6,000 customers hauled their purchases past a Wal-Mart register, far exceeding Martinez' most hopeful expectations.
While it is a Wal-Mart policy not to reveal sales figures, Martinez said that Saturday's take at the registers was her "second-best, almost as good as the day after last Thanksgiving."