Christopher Creek Celebrates The Silence

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At 7 a.m. Tuesday, Christopher Creek changed forever.

That's when the Arizona Department of Transportation opened the new bypass that takes Highway 260 around this scenic community instead of through it.

"This is big news for a small town that hasn't changed in years," said Julie Henig, co-owner of the Landmark Restaurant and Saloon.

Christopher Creek will rejoice this weekend by blocking off the street and holding a massive "Celebrate the Silence" festival that features horse-and-buggy rides, hayrides, live music, arts and crafts, games and a pumpkin-carving contest for ages 8 to 14 on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Deek performs Saturday afternoon, with the Top Cats, Arizona's hottest blues band performing Saturday night at the Landmark. Sean Gosney takes to the stage Sunday afternoon.

While the community realizes it will no longer have the captive traffic from Highway 260, it looks forward to developing new opportunities.

"ADOT's research shows we can expect a 6.5 percent drop in business with the bypass, but it will give us a chance as a community to pull together and become a destination resort and have some of these events and street parties that we couldn't have before when a major highway ran through here," Susan Keown of ERA Realty said.

"(The bypass) has been an excellent way for this community to have the businesses all work together on a special event," Henig said.

The business community is working on a whole host of new festivals and events that they hope become Christopher Creek traditions, said Debbie Aschbrenner, owner of Tall Pines Market.

"With camping and cabins, we really are a destination anyway, and we're going to create the festivals and other attractions that will make us even more so," Aschbrenner said.

Residents are also looking forward to the silence.

"We're really happy," said longtime resident Jim Hagen. "The name of the event is Celebrate the Silence, and for years we've heard the trucks downshifting coming down the hill. They're moved far enough south now, and I'm glad to see them go. The people who want to come to Christopher Creek will come to Christopher Creek."

Construction of the five-mile-long bypass is in its final stages, according to Keown.

"Work will continue during the fall on guardrail, landscaping, and rehabilitation of the forest adjacent to the new highway," Keown said. "The entire project will be completed next summer.

The $32.5 million project began in 2001. It features a new, four-lane highway around Christopher Creek and 13 new bridges, including major structures at Christopher Creek, Hunter Creek and Sharp Creek, and smaller bridges for wildlife and pedestrian crossings.

The first annual Celebrate the Silence Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The event is free.

For more information call the Landmark Restaurant and Saloon at 478-4221 or go to www. christophercreekarizona.com. Christopher Creek is 22 miles east of Payson off Highway 260.

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