For us, the effort began on Memorial Day 1990 around a kitchen table when Lee Pretsch met with Anna Mae Deming, the VFW and the American Legion. A committee was formed that included Joe and Lee Pretsch and local citizen and volunteer, George Rigby. By Labor Day 1990, Payson had American flags abounding throughout town.
Joe Pretsch took a white bed sheet, cut it in three widths, which he sewed together and painted, "Payson: The Town that Cares."
This "banner" hung in front of Bashas' market for three months. Over 500 messages of good will, hope and prayers from the people of Payson graced the banner by the time it was taken down and sent to the 82nd Airborne Division in Saudi Arabia.
Later, a photo was sent back to Payson from Saudi, and an article was published in the Payson Roundup.
With Christmas 1990 fast approaching, Lee Pretsch, committee chairperson, along with an assist from the Roundup, amassed over 9,000 Christmas cards to be sent to the troops overseas. A general from the 82nd Airborne helped, and nine huge boxes of cards were delivered to the troops for Christmas 1990.
Replies from the troops and letters thanking Payson were arriving well into January.
In the Spring of 1991, funds were procured to obtain a 15-by-25-foot flag for the 80-foot flagpole south of town. During this time, plans were being put into place to have Payson designated the "Flag Capital of Arizona." This happened on Rodeo Day, August 1992, when the Governor of Arizona, in a special ceremony, proclaimed Payson the Flag Capital. This proclamation is on display at Town Hall for all to see.
As the Payson Flag Committee evolved, new members volunteered their services and I, Col. Bill Sahno, became chief adviser and consultant to Lee Pretsch. The Flag Committee began to take on more form and structure as it served the town on all patriotic and special events, such as the initial flag raising at the Mazatzal Casino where a structured program was presented for the first time.
The flag-raising ceremony has been and will always be an integral part of Payson's patriotic event programs.
The Flag Committee, with then mayor Ray Schum, raised funds to have banners flown from the streetlights 24 hours a day, seven days a week on Highway 87 in honor of Payson being the Flag Capital of Arizona. The Flag Committee played a significant role in the establishment of the Payson Veterans Memorial in Green Valley Park and continues to use that location as the centerpiece for its patriotic event presentations.
With the departure of Joe and Lee Pretsch during August 2003, the Flag Committee had grown to have membership representing a significant volunteer cross section of town interests. Bill Sahno assumed Lee Pretsch's role as chairperson and the Flag Committee evolved into the "Payson Patriotic Event Committee," established to ensure that patriotism remains alive and well in Rim Country.
The Committee's responsibilities now include structuring presentations for such events as Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, Patriot Day and Veterans Day.
The Committee also supports other patriotic activities, such as the Pioneer Cemetery Memorial Day Tribute, the Mountain Meadows Cemetery Memorial Day Tribute, the ELKS Flag Day Tribute and other special events sponsored by the Town of Payson or other service/civic organizations.
In addition, the committee has taken on the task to operate the Main Street Flag Program, which ensures our flag is displayed on the vintage light poles that line Main Street on the occasions listed and other special occasions that involve activities on Main Street, such as the Classic Car Event and the Rodeo Parade.
Payson's Patriotic Events Committee consists of a team of talented, highly motivated and dedicated volunteers who subscribe to a charter that simply states that we exist to honor our flag and to promote patriotism in our community and the Rim Country region.
Indeed, a legacy of patriotism does exist in our town and along with that legacy, a vision to perpetuate that legacy for the betterment of all citizens, now and for future generations.
Memorial Day Weekend events
When: 8 a.m. Sunday
Where: Payson First Church of the Nazarene, 200 E. Tyler Parkway. Follow the flags to the Chapel in the Pines
Pioneer Cemetery Tribute
When: 9 a.m. Sunday
Where: Pioneer Cemetery, Payson
Mountain Meadows Tribute
When: 10 a.m. Sunday
Where: Mountain Meadows Cemetery, Round Valley
Flag Raising Ceremony
When: 8 a.m. Monday
Where: Mazatzal Casino flagpole
Memorial Day Tribute
When: 10 a.m. Monday
Where: Green Valley Park, Payson
National Moment of Silence, by presidential proclamation
When: 3 p.m. Monday