Karaoke And Dancing At Kelly's

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Kelly Sterling's sign is going up and the Straight Country sign is coming down.

The woman who was voted best bartender in Payson in 2004 just purchased the bar and is giving it a makeover.

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Raffles throughout the evening are Kelly Sterling's way of saying thank you to her customers. Community involvement is important to her too. A motorcycle enthusiast, Sterling has organized charity motorcycle runs while employed by other bars, and she plans to host fund-raisers at Kelly's benefiting Rim Country Arizonans for Children, Inc. -- a nonprofit organization that helps childhood victims of negligence or abuse.

"I'm extremely excited," said Sterling of the first bar she has owned. "I've made a lot of changes. This is the most variety this bar has ever had."

Two weeks before Christmas a tough situation led to her major decision: investing in her own bar. Never again would she be let go when a new owner decided to make personnel changes.

"My main goal and my purpose is to provide for my kids," she said. Sterling is the single mother of three: daughter Brooke and sons, Casey and Greg. "They are very supportive. They know why I am doing this -- to help make things better for them."

Positive changes have already taken place in her bar.

The bar may have had a rough reputation. That is in the past. Its present owner doesn't stand for any guff.

"Probably because I've lived in this area and been a bartender for a long time I've got a lot of respect from people," she said. "Anybody gets out of line here -- they're gone."

"It is fun seeing customers happy," she said. "I try to do as much as I can for the public."

There are pool tournaments on Wednesday nights at 6:30 and Texas Hold 'Em poker the same time Thursdays.

Karaoke enthusiasts are invited to sing on Friday nights starting at 8:30 p.m., while Ken Wood spins the discs and keeps the party lively. He also sings.

Dancers can kick their heels up on one of the biggest dance floors in town to the music of the house band she is in the process of putting together or the online jukebox.

"I just put it in," she said. "We can play anything from the oldies to what is out there right now.

"People are loving it. I get all (adult) age ranges in here."

Two acoustic guitars and a couple of mandolins are also available for customers who like to play.

"We are doing major clean-up," she said. "An exhaust system for the smoke, remodeling the inside, replacing old pictures, Taking out the carpet and replacing it with a concrete floor to keep it cleaner."

The bar doesn't have a kitchen, so for customers who are tired of pretzels, peanuts and chips, occasionally Kelly hosts a potluck.

"I've got one customer, Butch, an old-timer here in town, who brings in a pot of great stew," she said.

It was around seven years ago that Sterling got her start as a bartender at the old Pete's Place. "I truly loved it," Sterling said.

"I loved working with people and dealing with the public."

She has also tended bar at the old German Cowboy and the Oxbow Saloon.

When she was voted best bartender in 2004 she was working days in order to have time with her children. Now, going home to make dinner and check on homework is a part of Sterling's busy day she looks forward to.

"Honestly it is a challenge and I am learning," she said. "I'm making the effort so I can provide for my kids."

"The support I have gotten from just everybody (since opening Kelly's Jan. 9, 2006) has been phenomenal."

Kelly's is open from 7:30 a.m. until 2 a.m. on the weekends and until around midnight weekdays.

Kelly's is located in Star Valley at 25550 E. Highway 260. The phone number is (928) 474-0111.

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