In a June roundtable discussion between Mayor Ken Murphy, Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce director Bob Ware and June Bug Blues Festival organizer "Shakey" Joe Harless, it was conceded that Payson's former reputation as the "Festival Capital of Arizona" would not likely be reclaimed.
It was further agreed that plummeting attendance records for the town's surviving festivals the June Bug, the spring and August rodeos, the fiddle contest would continue to drop until the Payson Event Center's wide-open, sun-bleached bleachers are roofed.
"The Payson Event Center has no cover, no protection from the heat and dust," Murphy said. "You're out there in the middle of the sun, and potentially the rain. And who wants to sit on aluminum bleachers when there's lightning? That's not a good thing. Until we have a venue that's inviting, where we can present a variety of events, it's going to be difficult to ever attract people up here. As we've seen, we've had declining attendance at all of our festivals for years because of that deficiency."
Ware and Harless were emphatic in their support of that position.
Mayor, put your money where your mouth is. The idea, then, to spend $75,000 on Valley advertising to draw folks to Payson seems ludicrous at best.
That money would be better spent covering the sizzling hot bleachers at the event center so when folks do venture north for the August Rodeo, they'll have fond memories of a Payson event, rather than the hellish weekend they spent frying like bacon in the Rim country sun.
It's time the council set realistic priorities goals that include not only luring flatlanders to Payson, but to also ensure that those same visitors have a pleasant experience here.