Homegrown Fair Returns To Rim Country



After a two-year absence, the Northern Gila County Fair is returning to Rim Country. The 51st annual fair is set for Friday, Sept. 9 through Sunday, Sept. 11 at the Payson multi-event center and the Tonto Apache Tribe Gymnasium. Wendell Stevens has assumed the role of chairman, taking the reins from Walt and Wilene Smith.

"It was Walt and Wilene's wish that the fair remain homegrown, homemade and ‘old-fashioned'," Stevens said.


Young and old can compete for ribbons and cash prizes in the Northern Gila County Fair to be held in Payson Sept. 9, 10 and 11.

Think your tractor's sexy? You can put it on display.

Does the aroma from the apple pie your grandfather taught you to bake waft through your home and bring your children running? There's a place for your entry in domestic sciences.

Are the petals of your roses soft and lovely?

Is the hog you raised rotund and weighty? You can enter and even sell it at the fair.

The fair guide has a complete list of entry categories and corresponding rules. It can be picked up at the Payson Parks and Recreation office at 1000 W. Country Club Dr.

In addition to ribbons, entrants take home cash prizes of $3 for first place, $2 for second and $1 for third.

Special events

Special event coordinator Susie Belcher hopes to attract people who might not normally attend the fair by having a wide range of special events, displays and food and beverage vendors.

"There will be a petting zoo," Belcher said. "We are bringing a donkey in so we can get pictures of the kids on a donkey wearing a hat."

Attendees have their choice of entertainment acts to participate in or just watch.

The Sandoval family will play bluegrass music.

Payson high school drama students will put on a short play.

A karate demonstration is planned.

Dancers from the Zane Grey Twirlers will square off.

Faces will be smeared with filling as contestants vie to eat their way to a pie-eating blue ribbon.

A ceremony commemorating 9/11 is set for Sunday.

Payson had a community talent show a few years back, and Belcher and her assistant, Shannon Bielke, have brought it to the fair for the first time.

Auditions for the talent show will take place at the Fireside Cafe from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Contact Belcher at (928) 472-9910 or Bielke at (928) 472-7404 to sign up.

Domestic sciences (baking)

"I used to go to fairs as a kid and we just moved here from Minnesota last year and I wanted to get active in the community," said Gary Bedsworth who heads up the Domestic Science division. His background is in the restaurant business.

Baked delights such as yeast breads, candy and cookies will be judged on appearance, texture, aroma and consistency.

"Judges will be taste-testing the cakes, pies and pastries," Bedsworth said. Left over goodies will be on display.


Eileen Lawson has chaired floriculture for more years than she remembers. It is a fair divisions with many entries.

She said that sometimes weather will damage cut flowers making it the only category that gets a couple of entries.

"We get pots with plants that I can barely lift," she said. "We've had huge trees come in and big potted bowls of cacti."

The big new entry in floriculture is artistically designed wheel barrow arrangements.

One or more of the following may be used to create this display: potted plants, fresh garden flowers, dried foliage, fruit, dried flowers, vegetables, flowering, foliages or fruited branches and accessories.

"If you had a plant on the porch that isn't necessarily a good specimen to enter by itself maybe you would want to use it along with a pumpkin, or a bale of hay," Lawson said.

Judges will look for different kinds of plants in a neat artistic arrangement. One could even stuff a scarecrow and add it to the wheel barrow if they wanted.

"This year we are going to include the different kinds of ornamental grasses that have become so popular that people like to plant," Lawson said. Ornamental grasses can be entered as just the plume, plumbed or unplumbed.

Single-leafed cosmos flowers are also a new category this year along with best miniature rose and most unusually colored rose.


The fair would not be complete without animals.

Charlotte, the famous spelling spider will not be there, but a flight of pigeons and a gaggle of geese will.

There are small-animal entry categorizes for soft bunnies with long floppy ears, proudly feathered bantam cocks, ducklings, doves and guinea pigs.

Entrants in Friday night fun can horse around literally. The exact games at the event center have yet to be determined, but they may include barrel racing, pole bending, keyhole and flag racing. This no-fee event is separate from the actual horse show.

A 4-H and Future Farmers of America livestock auction will take place Saturday morning.

Steers must weigh at least 850 pounds, but no more than 1,200 pounds.

Swine must weigh at least 180 pounds, but no more than 250 pounds.

Animals become the property of the buyer at the time of purchase. Stevens said that two or more people could go together to purchase an animal.

"One of the most rewarding experiences of putting a fair on is the team effort it takes to be successful," Stevens said.

He and the numerous volunteers invite the community to bring the whole family out to enjoy the Northern Gila County Fair.

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