Payson may no longer be known as "The Festival Capital of Arizona," but when you add up all the special events in a calendar year, the nickname still resonates off the Rim.
There are the two rodeos, the June Bug Blues Fest, the Fiddlers' Festival, the Art League shows and its studio tour, the big county complex craft fairs, concerts, Trunk or Treat, the APS electric light parade and other town Christmas events, plus more.
Payson easily hosts 20 events every year, drawing an average attendance of at least 1,000 people. Some have fewer, most have more.
The Spring Rodeo, held May 16 to 19, 2002, attracted a total of 1,500 people.
The August Rodeo of 2002, had more than 5,000 people attend its performances. The number does not include all the participants, volunteers, vendors and Rodeo Committee members.
The number of people attending the annual Rodeo Parade and other special events also is not included.
Other, smaller rodeo-type events are held throughout the year, including team roping, gymkhanas, the High School and the All Indian Rodeos. Combined, these events had about 2,769 participants.
The Art League
The Payson Art League draws about 2,000 people to each of its big shows in May and October, making an average of $25,000 in art sales at each. The shows feature about 35 artists.
These artists donate work for a special raffle that raises funds to bring artists into the Rim area's schools, purchase art supplies for classes and award scholarships.
The league's newest event, Studio Tours, drew 200 people.
House of Jireh Craft Fairs
The big craft fairs held at the county complex draw between 5,000 and 7,000 on a two-day weekend, with 10,000 coming out when the event is held on a three-day weekend, according to Dean Schlosser who organizes the events.
The 2003 Spring Show is May 24, 25, and 26.
He said the future of the shows has a cloud over it with newly adopted county fees for the food vendors. Schlosser said Gila County will charge vendors at single events almost as much as Maricopa County charges for a full year.
The attendance at these traditional events suffered from adverse weather in 2002.
The June Bug Blues Fest had 850 people attend and the Fiddle Festival had 500 total over the three-day event.
The drought-related fire danger, and the consequent lack of fireworks at the Fourth of July festivities, brought in an attendance of only 2,000.
An autumn storm rained on the annual Trunk or Treat celebration for Halloween, reducing attendance to about 1,000 hearty souls. Normally the event attracts between 2,000 and 3,000, according to Michelle Beach, special events coordinator for the Parks and Recreation Department.
Beach said the concert series in Green Valley Park drew about 800 people to each performance.
The Old Fashioned Christmas at the Rim Country Mall, held over two weekends, had around 275 people attend each time.
The annual Christmas Lighting at the Swiss Village Shops attracted about 2,000 people.
The Main Street-APS Electric Light Parade, another annual holiday celebration, drew between 3,000 and 4,000 spectators, according to coordinator Marilyn Wolfe.
Other Special Events
Rim country clubs and organizations put on a number of other special events throughout the year. A couple that come to mind are the garden tour and the car show.
The Rim Area Gardeners present the garden tour, giving the public a chance to see some of the best examples of home gardens under the Rim. The tours also provide an opportunity to see what plants do well with the area's soil, moisture and temperatures.
The garden tour had 361 paying participants.
The big car show, the Beeline Cruise-In Charity Car Show, presented by the Rim Country Classic Auto Club and hosted by the Mazatzal Casino, had plenty of people turn out to see a dazzling array of antique, vintage and classic vehicles. Since no admission was charged, there is no firm count on the number who attended.
Monster truck and motocross events, along with a circus and an auction, also drew several hundred people each during 2002.
The total attendance at activities at the Payson Event Center in 2002 was 16,305, according to statistics from the Parks and Recreation Department.