What began 15 years ago as a benefit to fund the Payson High School wrestling team's annual holiday trip to California has evolved into a much-anticipated community event.
Pine Realtor Mark Fumusa, one of the founders of the Longhorns' yearly spaghetti dinners, remembers the early years.
"Dennis (Pirch, former PHS wrestling coach) and I were looking for ways to earn money so the kids could go to Disneyland during the Christmas vacation," he said. "We came up with the spaghetti dinners. They earned good money, and now we've never stopped doing them."
When Fumusa helped start the benefit, he had two sons, Matt and Vince, on the wrestling team. The two have long since departed PHS, but Fumusa has continued to play a huge role in hosting the event.
At the annual dinner, Nov. 30 at Rim Country Middle School, Fumusa and his six volunteer assistants spent the entire day cooking a spaghetti feast for the more than 500 people. The cooks used 110 pounds of spaghetti noodles, 120 pounds of ground beef, four gallons of homemade salad dressing and 100 pounds of flour for homemade rolls prepared by Jacque Lee.
As delicious as the homemade meals are, they have become much more than an Italian dinner.
"It's a time and place where we can all gather and enjoy the fellowship of one another," assistant wrestling coach Don Heizer said. "It's the type of things we can have in a small town."
The benefit also produces funds the wrestling team uses for travel and to purchase equipment not available in the school's athletic budget.
Heizer estimates the dinner earned more than $2,000 thanks to donations of food items from the Mazatzal Casino, Bashas' and Safeway.
"Without the money earned at the dinners, we would not be able to do a lot of the things for kids we now do," Heizer said.
The coach also sees the dinners as events that benefit everyone.
"It's a win-win situation," he said. "The team earns the money it needs and the people get a great meal at a low price.
About the only glitch in the dinners is that they have grown so popular, and serving lines can often be long.
"We're looking at next year having two lines," Heizer said. "This is a great thing, we want to keep it going for another 15 years."