Having recently experienced my first rodeo weekend in Payson, I have no comparison handy. However, I can say how pleasantly surprised I was at the old-fashioned sense of revelry that encompassed the Rim Country this weekend.
The whole town donned rodeo decorations. Myriad welcome signs wafted from rafters and above entrances. Everywhere in town, from Circle K to antique shops on Main Street, a quiet, but unmistakable buzz filled the air. It was apparent, days prior to the rodeo kickoff, that Payson takes its rodeo seriously.
Each event I attended -- Friday night's rodeo performances, part of Saturday's parade, the casino's rodeo dance and celebrations at the Ox Bow -- provided a glimpse into a time nearly forgotten. It was the type of weekend reminiscent of small-town America at its finest. It was a special weekend that doesn't happen too often in today's busy world.
This weekend wasn't my first rodeo, but it was the first time I experienced one in as tight-knit of a community as Payson.
From the moving opening dedication on Friday to the upbeat attitude of the ID checkers on Saturday night, it was obvious how much residents treasure this community.
The rodeo dance at the Mazatzal Casino was well-attended, and Jadi Norris and his band were brilliant with their up-tempo renditions of popular country songs. At least 15 to 20 couples glided around the dance floor consistently.
Carol McCauley, marketing director at the casino, told me Saturday night that it was one of the best-attended events in recent years.
The fun continued on Main Street where the Main Street Grille still looked packed at 11 p.m. when I drove past. At the Ox Bow, parking was about as treasured as the Payson Regional Medical Center's Healthy Woman Program for which pink shirts were clearly visible on Friday.
Finally making my way inside the Ox Bow after crossing the patio areas, which were packed with good-timing cowboys and their affiliates, I was shocked to see how many people were crammed inside the historic bar.
It was one of the few instances in life where beginning to sweat immediately isn't such a bad thing. In this case, it only meant that hundreds of other people were also having a good time.
The second floor featured hip-hop music and scads more dancing bodies. While upstairs varied a bit from the Western-themed weekend, everyone was clearly having fun. Contrary to what some might believe, there are cowboys who have moves outside of two-steppin'.
It was one of the most fun-filled weekends I've had in a while, big city or small town. Perhaps Payson should host a few more rodeos each year to jumpstart the town's festive side.