Festival Returns Country Music To Payson

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Acoustic country fans have spoken, and they're getting what they want.

Payson's Old Time Country Music and Bluegrass Festival is back, and for the first time in years, it's all acoustic a move producer Ben Sandoval predicts will bring back big crowds.

The festival suffered from low attendance in the '80s and was discontinued.

Sandoval wants it the way it was in the '70s: all acoustic.

"In the mid-'80s, the Payson Chamber of Commerce wanted to turn Payson into the Nashville of the West," Sandoval says. "They thought they could make the festival bigger and get big-time electric country artists, but that was totally out of our reach. We lost our crowd, because most people wanted acoustic country and bluegrass music."

For the first few years since its inception in 1970, the two-day festival drew crowds of almost 2,000 per day.

Sandoval expects a crowd of between 800-1,500 per day this year.

The old-time music fest was the first of its kind in Arizona for many years, says Vertielee Floyd, organizer of the Arizona Fiddling Contest.

"There's a lot of heritage involved with (the country festival)," she says. "It was inspired by the Bicentennial. Payson wanted a special way to celebrate, so some people got together and spear-headed the festival to show support for our nation's music."

The weekend lineup

The concert will be held at the Payson Event Center May 26 and 27. The festival will feature contests in specialty vocal, bluegrass banjo, flat pick guitar, specialty instrument and bluegrass mandolin. The festival runs both days from 8:45 a.m. until 5 p.m., and admission is $8 for adults, $5 for ages 6-18, and free for children under 6.

For more information, call the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce at 474-4515.

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