4th Of July Fun Abounds Around The Rim

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Children cherish the Fourth of July as if it were a Christmas tree surrounded by shiny presents.

They love the games, the celebratory atmosphere and the chance to gather with their friends to eat greasy cheeseburgers and melting ice cream.

But most of all, they love the fireworks.

"Fireworks are the best part," said 12-year-old Clint Sparks of Payson.

His friend, 14-year-old Charles Chastain also of Payson, agreed.

"Without fireworks, we wouldn't really have a Fourth of July," he said. "I was pretty bummed (when there weren't any fireworks in Payson), because that's what I look forward to."

And unlike last year when the fireworks display was canceled on the heels of the 460,638-acre Rodeo-Chediski Fire, police and fire department officials have given this year's show the go-ahead.

"We're planning on fireworks," said Payson Fire Department Fire Chief Marty deMasi. "There is a danger and there is a certain amount of risk, but we think we've got it covered."

He added that the PFD will cancel the fireworks if certain situations arise, such as thunder storms, windy conditions, a fire elsewhere that would prevent firefighters from monitoring the show, or anything else they deem a threat.

"(If there are bad conditions), we're just not going to do it," deMasi said. "But if it's calm and things are looking good and there's nothing else going on ... I believe it will go forward."

deMasi also said the site of the fireworks display, Green Valley Park, is the safest place in the area to put on the show because of its moisture and surrounding defendable space.

Michelle Beach, events and activities coordinator for the Payson Parks and Recreation Department, is in charge of organizing Green Valley Park's Fourth of July celebration and said she thinks the evening will go just as planned.

"I don't think we'll have any problems," she said. "If we felt we were going to, we wouldn't be doing it."

Beach added that there will be much more to the day's activities than fireworks. Family games like sack races, tug-of-war, balloon races and children's carnival games will keep visitors busy and will lead into the third of the Concert Under the Stars series.

The concert, performed by country/ variety group, the Darkhorse Band, will start at 7 p.m. in the park's amphitheater.

"The Darkhorse Band strives to provide a more colorful, fun-loving experience by encouraging audience participation and involvement," reads the group's website, www.darkhorseband. com.

While the Darkhorse Band has not performed in Payson before, they have done more than 1,000 live performances around the Valley. Beach said their eclectic style is sure to be a hit.

Beach said the audience will have about 20-25 minutes after the Darkhorse Band plays its last song (around 9 p.m.) to make its way to the largest of the Green Valley lakes to watch the fireworks, which will be set off during the following half-hour.

Beach added that there will also be vendors at the celebration. They are all nonprofit organizations, such as the toy drive and the humane society, and will sell items ranging from hamburgers, hot dogs and beverages to glow ropes and ice cream.

Payson resident Sue Miles said celebrating the Fourth of July is more than just having fun and playing games.

"It's a way to support our ancestors and who we are," Miles said. "People should go because of what it cost us (during 1776's Revolutionary War and wars following) for the day to happen and keep happening year after year."

Alcohol and sparklers will not be permitted in the park.

Parking will be limited at Green Valley, so participants are encouraged to arrive early or take the free shuttle service being offered at Taylor Pool and Ramada 5 in Rumsey Park. The service is free.

Beach added residents and visitors of Payson should go to the celebration because "It's an all-around good time for all ages."

Other Rim country celebrations

Payson's Sawmill Crossing will be host to a concert of its own when The Amazing Nasty Brothers perform in the area between Quizno's Classic Subs and Club USA at 3 p.m. on July 4 and 5.

All the businesses of Sawmill Crossing contributed money to pay for the band and for Franco, The Valley's Famous Clown, who will also be there.

"It's a great Fourth of July activity right down the street from the park," said Russ Bowen, owner of the Cookie and Coffee Cafe. "This is a great place to swing in and get some refreshments."

Prizes and discounts to various local businesses will be given away at the event.

Tonto Village will host a patriotic-themed parade at 1 p.m. on July 5 after Ethel and Danny Cain cook up a barbecue meal in their restaurant, Double D.

The parade starts at Tonto Village Chapel and ends at Johnson Boulevard.

Another highlight of the day will be a "chicken drop." The chicken drop may be a "can't miss" for out-of-towners who likely haven't heard of the game. Participants pay for a number placed in a square on the ground. A chicken will be released onto a grid of numbers and on whichever one it drops its ... well, droppings, is the winning number.

There will also be a Fourth of July party at 4 p.m. on July 5 at the Pine-Strawberry School playground in Pine. Participants can take part in games like the ever popular watermelon seed-spitting contest.

The party will be sponsored by the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce and will be open to everybody in the Pine-Strawberry community.

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