It's the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo, and since it began 117 years ago it has been a big deal in the Rim country.
While today's August Doin's provides a special way of celebrating our cowboy heritage, the whole thing started back when the Rim country was still living that heritage. In fact, the first Payson Rodeo in 1884 was organized to provide a diversion for local cowboys during down time before the fall roundups.
Originally the rodeo was just a calf roping and horse racing contest held in a meadow near what is today the intersection of Main Street and the Beeline, but it quickly grew into something much bigger. It wasn't long before cowboys from all over the state were showing up to compete in new events such as bronc busting, bull riding, and steer roping and tying.
Local historian and columnist Stan Brown explains what happened next: "Before the turn of the century, the Doin's were moved to Main Street, and the porches on the growing number of stores provided grandstands. Wagons, and later autos, created barriers along the south side of the street to form the 'arena,' and cattle chutes were constructed on the north side where today's library stands."
According to Brown, the August Doin's had become a week-long party that "rivaled Christmas as a time when family and friends gathered for reunions and visiting." Preparations often began weeks in advance at area ranches so food would be ready to feed the annual onslaught of visitors and relatives.
This year's August Doin's, scheduled for Aug. 17 through Aug. 19, is still a big deal, and the event continues to evolve and grow.
In addition to Coors, national sponsors include Wrangler, Dodge Trucks, Justin Boots, U.S. Tobacco, and Coca Cola. The Tonto Apache Mazatzal Casino also will continue its extraordinary level of support.
The big Rodeo Parade, complete with marching bands, floats, and lots of horses and other things Western takes place Saturday morning along the Beeline, while old-fashioned rodeo dances will keep the town jumping after the rodeos on Friday and Saturday nights.
Of course, some things about the Payson Rodeo never change. For one, there's the dust. A rodeo just wouldn't be a rodeo without dust. For another, there are the smells leather and horses.
That rodeo spirit is a feeling that people have experienced for 117 years now, a feeling that will continue to bring together residents and guests to celebrate the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo.