The snakes will be back in Green Valley Park Saturday, May 5 as will the Gila monsters and the monster trout for Payson's 7th Annual Wildlife Fair and Fishing Fest.
"This year's fair promises to be the biggest and best ever," said Cheryl Carrothers, a wildlife biologist for the Tonto National Forest's ranger station in Payson. "Smokey Bear will be there once again, and there will be games and lots of giveaways, including Smokey Bear hats, whistles, water bottles, watches, frisbees, bobber kits, baseballs, airplanes, sunglasses and other items."
The free event, which will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., is designed to acquaint forest users, especially young people, with safe outdoor practices, as well as forest rules and regulations in a fair-like environment.
"It's a come-early-and-bring-the-whole-family kind of event," Carrothers said.
New this year will be wildlife shooting galleries operated by Arizona Game and Fish. Supervised by hunter safety instructors, one shooting gallery is a virtual activity similar to laser tag, and the other uses pellet guns, Carrothers said.
Game and Fish is playing an even larger role this year.
"Their Adobe Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is bringing a lot more wildlife, including a greater variety of snakes," she said.
Clint Miller, "the snake man," will be back, and so will his popular Gila monster and bull snake. Another highlight of the festival will be free fishing in Green Valley Lake, which will be freshly stocked with more than 600 pounds of catchable fish.
"We'll be stocking the lake with 50 percent more fish than usual, probably on Thursday, May 3," Carrothers said. "People who register can fish for free, and we'll have loaner poles available. Volunteers will be on hand who will even help you bait your hook."
The Desert Hawking Club, a falconers group, will make its first appearance at the festival, and the Tonto Hatchery will be back with its custom-made viewing tank. Off-highway vehicle and sportsfish booths will be supplemented by games and face painting.
Live entertainment will be provided by the Rim country's own cowboy poet and songstress Dee Strickland Johnson and Trouble in Paradise.
Besides the Payson Ranger District and Game and Fish, sponsors include the Mogollon Sporting Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Arizona State Parks, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Phoenix Varmint Callers, Payson Youth Sports and many more.
For more information call the Payson Ranger District at 474-7900.