It's always one of Payson's signature social events, but this year's "Wine & Cheese/Beer & Brats Tasting" at the Rim Country Museum is even more special.
Besides live appearances by General Crook, Bill Boardman and other historical characters from the past and the usual selection of fine wines, choice beers, select cheeses, gourmet pretzels and spicy brats, the menu this year includes jazz.
The Payson Jazz Trio and the Payson High School/Rim Country Middle School Jazz Band will perform at the event, scheduled for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, May 20.
The event, dubbed "History & All That Jazz" is a major fund-raiser for the Northern Gila County Historical Society. It also includes a raffle and a silent auction.
Tickets are $15 each or $25 per couple and can be purchased at the Rim Country Museum, Museum of Rim Country Archaeology, from any NGCHS board member, and at the door.
For more information, call (928) 474-3483.
Funds raised through "History & All That Jazz" help support the important work of the Northern Gila County Historical Society in preserving and conserving the cultural heritage and colorful history of Payson and the Rim country.
The society, which has about 250 members, operates the two museums, and is slated to operate the Zane Grey cabin, currently under construction adjacent to the Rim Country Museum when it opens in June or July.
"When it's all finished and up and running, we'll take it over," NGCHS President Tom McGuigan said. "We're talking about it being open seven days a week."
Besides limited financial support from the town of Payson and fund-raisers like "History & All That Jazz," the society is supported by member dues, donations, museum admissions, and gift shop sales.
Although the museum attracted visitors from 17 different states and three foreign countries one recent month, it is the cabin that McGuigan is counting on to produce the numbers that will help the society stay in the black.
The famous western novelist's cabin was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and by the 1980s it was attracting 20,000 visitors a year. Grey, who penned more than 60 westerns, spent each fall at the cabin during the 1920s. He set 24 of his books in Arizona and half of those in the Rim country. Among the novelist's works are "Riders of the Purple Sage," "Call of the Canyon," "To the Last Man," "Vanishing American," and "Wildfire."
"Enamored with the Rim's rugged environment, Zane was certain that it was also rich in history that would provide many plots for his novels," Beth Counsellor, one of the original cabin's caretakers, wrote in "The Story of the Zane Grey Cabin."
"It's going to be an exact replica of that cabin on the grassy knoll just to the east of the Rim Country Museum, and it will house genuine artifacts from Zane Grey and his era, and the whole building itself will be an exhibit," Zane Grey Cabin Foundation President Dick Wolfe said.
Although the cabin will open this summer, the official dedication will be held during the Rim Country Western Heritage Festival on Oct. 15.
The society is also faced with the expense of re-siding the Rim Country Museum and the adjacent ranger station.
Both buildings have sustained substantial water damage from the Green Valley Park sprinkler system being installed too close to them.
"We can't put just any old siding up there," McGuigan said. "It has to be historically correct, so we'll probably have to buy the lumber and do the planing right on site."
The society can always use more members and volunteers. For information on membership, call Diane Visdas at (928) 468-0184. For information on volunteer opportunities, call Judy Alender at (928) 468-0936 or leave a message at the Rim Country Museum, (928) 474-3483.