Planning the town's gala Independence Day celebration in Green Valley Park is never an easy task for the Payson Parks and Recreation Department.
But this year, Mother Nature has really thrown a monkey wrench into the works.
It's a given that if the Sahara-dry Rim country isn't deluged by precipitation between now and July 4, there will be no fireworks display. But that single alteration would reverberate throughout the entire event, according to Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind.
"We can't even say for sure if we would have or need the free shuttle service, because we have no idea how many people will come if there are no fireworks," Schwind said. "What kind of a traffic and parking plan will we need? How many portable toilets? There are a lot of questions, but at this point, we just don't know the answers."
With fireworks, the town's July Fourth party ranks as one of the biggest community events of the year. The last few years, Schwind said, an average of about 5,000 people have lined the banks of Green Valley Park Lake to "oooooh" and "ahhhhhh" at the traditional sky-high explosions of color and light.
But when the main attractions are tortilla-tossing competitions and live country music, the general enthusiasm level is certain to suffer a decline.
Schwind said he has two plans in mind that if successful would offset the anticipated drop in attendees.
"One, I'm going to keep hoping for rain," he said. "Two, we're still looking at the possibility of having some other type of lights-in-the-air presentation."
Not likely to be given further consideration, however, is a laser-light show, as Schwind had hoped out loud a few weeks ago.
"We called a Valley company that does laser-light shows, and the price they quoted was $70,000," Schwind said, still reeling from the conversation. "Since the average we spend on our fireworks displays has been about $7,000, it's doubtful that a laser-light show will be in the offing this year. But we're still looking into it. We're having a meeting Thursday, June 20, to figure out exactly what we are going to do."
Until then, there are a few things Schwind knows for sure about this year's July 4 festivities.
The party will begin at 3 p.m. with two hours of 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-o'-war competitions.
5 p.m. The action will shift to the lake, where the Rim Country Rotary Club will hold its Fifth Annual Mountain Duck Race Firequacker. Ducks can be "adopted" for $5 each, $30 for a ten-pack, and $40 for 100. The ducks will compete for up to $12,050 in prize money, and the proceeds will go to scholarships, the Friends of Parks and Rec, and several local charities.
As the sun begins to set, folks will start staking out spots in the grass for a free concert by Valley-based country-music band Western Bred, which will perform from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the GVP ramada.
Directly after the concert, when the fireworks are traditionally launched ... something else could happen.
In the sky, maybe. But maybe not.
For the latest-breaking information about the Town of Payson's July 4 activities, call the Parks and Rec Department at 474-5242, ext. 7.