Our Rim country communities are planning plenty of fun for the Fourth of July.
This year's Independence Day festival in Payson will be rigged with the works: a duck race, a country music concert and yes, even fireworks.
"I've canceled fireworks once before -- it's just not a pretty thing," said Fire Marshal Mike Winters at a recent planning meeting.
Fire and police officials will allow fireworks on the Fourth, barring strong winds or the outbreak of another fire nearby.
The $10,000 show is scheduled to go off around 9:15 p.m. on the big day, with a patriotic send-off from the 108th Army National Guard Band.
"The fireworks are going to be even bigger and better this year," said Charlene Hunt, special events coordinator for Payson Parks and Recreation.
The festivities will officially begin at 3 p.m., with games in the Green Valley Park amphitheater.
A rubber duck race sponsored by the Rim Country Rotary Foundation will follow the games. At 5 p.m. about 2,000 yellow rubber ducks will charge through the lake, each competing for the $1,000 grand prize. Proceeds will benefit local charities.
The band Young Country will give a concert that evening in the amphitheater. They will take the stage at 7 p.m.
Hamburgers, snow cones and glow ropes will be provided by various vendors, including Payson Youth Football, Santa's List, Payson High School Softball and other non-profit organizations.
Town Manager Fred Carpenter said the holiday brings people together.
"I think it creates a real sense of community ...," he said. "It's an extremely important holiday to our nation. It brings people together."
Police Lt. Don Engler said he is expecting about 4,000 to 5,000 people this year, and the police force will be ready.
Certain streets near the park will be closed off specifically for shuttle buses. Last year turned into a traffic jam, but this year the shuttles will run smooth and easy, Engler said.
The shuttles will pick up passengers at Rumsey Park, and drop them off at Julia Randall Elementary School. There will be additional handicapped parking this year as well.
For more information about the Fourth of July events, call Payson Parks and Recreation at (928) 474-5242, ext. 7.
Another special event in Payson is the Celebration of the Pioneer Families of the Rim Country, hosted by the Wilbanks family and Lone Pine Hotel. The barbecue and stories start at 2 p.m., Saturday, July 3 and lasts until all the stories are told. The Lone Pine Hotel is at 610 W. Main Street, Payson. The public is welcome and encouraged to bring their favorite dessert to share. For more information, contact Duke Wilbanks at (928) 474-2940.
Further on up the Rim in Pine, there will be events throughout the day.
The Pine Strawberry Arts & Craft show is July 3 and 4. There will be more than 85 vendors with one-of-a-kind gifts and crafts, jewelry, ceramics, wood items, stained glass, dolls, baby gifts and many more juried craft booths. There will be plenty to eat including snow cones, kettle corn, Navajo tacos, burgers, hot dogs and fruit smoothies.
Clowns and face painting will entertain the children as well as a safe playground to keep them happy while the parents shop. Don't miss this great event.
The forest is closed, but the Pine Strawberry Arts and Craft show will be open for business.
The Kiwanis pancake breakfast will start the day on both Saturday and Sunday, July 3 and 4. All-you-can-eat pancakes plus sausage, orange juice and coffee are on the menu. The price is $5 for adults and $3 for children 10 and under. All the proceeds help children in the Pine Strawberry area.
There will be no 4th of July party at the school in Pine this year. Once again we will not be able to have fireworks.
The fun continues on Monday when the 108th Arizona Army National Guard Band returns to Pine at 7 p.m., July 5, for a free concert which will be held in the now air-conditioned Cultural Hall at the Pine Community Center. The music will range from oldies to modern pop with lots of our favorite patriotic tunes. Come to this celebration of America through music.
Still higher in the Pines, the Christopher Creek community will have its 4th of July celebration at the Landmark all weekend. The plans are for lots of music and activities.