The Town of Payson's Fourth of July party at Green Valley Park is shaping up as one of the biggest community events of the year.
This year's festivities will feature free-of-charge shuttle buses, games, face painting, a concert and, naturally, fireworks.
If all goes as meticulously planned, the event will be free of the traffic gridlock that put a small damper on last year's celebration, which drew about 5,000 revelers three times more than expected. This year's throng is expected to exceed 6,000.
"The size of that crowd really took us by surprise," says Bethany Beck, recreation coordinator for Payson Parks and Recreation, the event's sponsor. "Green Valley Park is a beautiful setting for Fourth of July festivities, but it does present some logistical challenges involving both parking and restrooms."
Do the math: There were six portable toilets and 200 parking spaces to accommodate 5,000 people.
"We still had cars lined up (trying to exit the parking area) after midnight and the fireworks ended at 10," Beck says.
The number of portable johns will be tripled or quadrupled this year, she says, and Lt. Don Engler of the Payson Police Department has helped devise a workable traffic and parking plan for the event.
The key to the plan is the free and speedy shuttle, which will pick up passengers at several well-marked areas in Rumsey Park: Taylor Pool, the tennis courts, Ramada 5 (the largest ramada), and the south park entrance near Payson Parkway. The drop-off point will be curbside at the Green Valley Park amphitheater.
Parking restrictions include:
Absolutely no parking will be allowed off the paved roads or on any vacant lots in the Stone Creek subdivision.
Lake Drive, beginning at the First Assembly of God Church near the park, will be closed to all traffic other than homeowners and their guests.
To make the event as headache-free as possible for everyone, parks officials have enlisted the help of: Payson police officers, who will direct traffic during the gala; the street department, which will handle the traffic cones and barricades, and use water trucks to keep the dust down in Rumsey Park; and the Payson Unified School District, which is offering the use of its school buses and drivers, with the town paying for fuel and drivers' wages.
The Payson Fire Department will oversee the safety of the fireworks display and less tension is expected in this area of the celebration, too.
The Independence Day celebration itself will begin at 3 p.m. Wednesday with family-fun games and face painting in the grassy amphitheater. Both children and adults are invited to join in the fun by playing rounds of leap frog and participating in tortilla-tosses, gunny-sack races and tug-of-war competitions.
Throughout the afternoon, Rim Country Middle School volunteers will peddle hamburgers, hot dogs and sodas in the parking lot of Julia Randall Elementary School across the street from the park.
3:30 p.m. The Rim Country Museum will dedicate the completion of the Haught cabin, which was originally built in about 1910 and has been rebuilt near the museum between the original forest ranger garage and residence.
3:30 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. At some point within this time frame, Congressman J.D. Hayworth will make an appearance at Payson's Veteran's Memorial to present Marion Deal one of Payson's most highly decorated World War II veterans with the many military decorations he earned but lost over the years.
5 p.m. The action will shift to the lake, where the Rim Country Rotary Club will hold its 4th Annual Firequacker Duck Race. Ducks can be "adopted" for $5 each, $25 for a six-pack and $100 for 25. The ducks will compete for up to $12,500 in prize money.
As the sun begins to set, folks will start staking out spots in the grass for a free, back-by-popular-demand concert by the country-music band, Western Bred. The band will perform from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the amphitheater.
Shortly after the concert, the fireworks will begin directly above the lake, where they will be visible from around the park and surrounding area.
For more information about the Town of Payson's July 4 activities, call parks and recreation at 474-5242, ext. 7.