The much-anticipated grand opening of the Payson Multi-Event Center will happen this weekend when cowboys from all over the country gather for the Spring PRCA Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo.
The two-day event includes PRCA-sanctioned rodeo performances Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. In addition, fans can attend a full-blown All-Women's Pro Rodeo Friday night.
For the first time in years, the spring fling will include a rodeo parade down Payson's historic Main Street. The parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Miss Rodeo Arizona pageant and a carnival will be held in Payson all weekend. The carnival will be held next to the Tonto Apache Market and the Miss Rodeo Arizona pageant will be held at various venues throughout town, including at the Tonto Apache activity center.
Festivities begin Thursday, May 18, with a big steak fry at Rumsey Park to benefit Miss Rodeo Arizona. (For more information on this event, call Spring Rodeo Boss Bill Armstrong at 474-9440.)
Then Friday night, the new rodeo grounds open at 5:30 p.m. with the ladies' rodeo beginning at 7 p.m. Events include calf roping, breakaway, team roping, barrel racing, and bareback and bull riding.
Saturday evening, the men take over, with the gates opening at 5:30 p.m., a grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony for the multi-event center's new rodeo grounds at 6 p.m., and PRCA rodeo action commencing at 7 p.m. Events include bareback riding, calf roping, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, bull riding, and women's barrel racing.
Admission to the Saturday and Sunday rodeos is $7 for adults, $3 for children six to 12, and free for those five and under. For the women's rodeo, tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children.
Rodeo tickets can be purchased in advance at Payson Feed & Pet Supply, Payson Marketplace, or at the main gate on the days of the performances.
Of course, no rodeo weekend is complete without a big dance, and rodeo goers can kick up their heels to the sounds of Haywire Saturday from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. at Mazatzal Casino. Tickets for the Spring Rodeo Dance are $10 per person at the Mazatzal Cashier's Cage. (Bring your rodeo ticket stub and get $2 in nickels free.)
The Payson Spring Rodeo wraps up Sunday, but not before a couple of significant events. At 9 a.m., the big coronation brunch takes place at the Tonto Apache Activity Center. In addition to the presentation of awards and scholarships, one of 10 contestants, including the Rim country's own Honey Ryan, will be crowned Miss Rodeo Arizona 2000.
The Payson Spring Rodeo will draw to a close with the final PRCA Pro Rodeo. Gates at the multi-event center open at 11 a.m., with rodeo action beginning at 1 p.m.
For more information on the Spring PRCA Rodeo, contact the Payson Chamber of Commerce at (800) 6PAYSON, or Armstrong at (520) 474-9440.