Payson Heritage Festival Offers Great Family Fun


Arizona's cool mountain town -- in the heart of Arizona -- is having a party this weekend and would like to invite you and your family to attend.

The Payson Heritage Festival, formerly known as the Payson Western Heritage Festival, is all day Saturday in Green Valley Park at the west end of Old Main Street.

Payson's heritage as a Western frontier community is still alive today. The blend of old ranching and pioneer families, the Tonto Apache Tribe and the historic museums all tell a story that is as entertaining as anywhere in the Old West. During the Payson Heritage Festival, guests will learn the history of Zane Grey, the famous Western novelist, who loved Payson and made its rough landscape the focal point for several of his books.

This one-day event is a celebration of Payson's Western, Native American and pioneer heritage and will feature music, actors, hay and buggy rides, Native American dancers, old-fashioned gunfight reenactments, a Western melodrama and much more.

The festival will be located in the amphitheater in Payson's Green Valley Park. Enter the festival from two different ranch-style gateways, one on the east and the other on the southern end of the park. The set (similar to what you would see in a Western movie) is being constructed from burlap and other period-specific items. Upon entering the event site, guests will receive a goody bag that contains local offerings from many of the great businesses in Payson that are supporting this event.

With goody bag in hand -- let the fun begin. Each heritage site (similar to how Disneyland is set up) will feature period-specific games, activities and demonstrations. The three sites are being called the Native American Village, Western Cowboy Ranch and Pioneer Town.

From the southern Sierra Anchas to the Mogollon Rim, lies a country rich in the heritage of the American cowboy. Ranchers settled Payson and the surrounding Rim Country. Come and learn about how the tough men and women of the isolated Rim Country left their lasting impression on this area.

Western Cowboy Ranch activities are scheduled to include:

  • Branding demonstrations
  • Roping competition
  • Little Tikes Buckin' Barrel Ride
  • Cowboy games (poker, 10-gallon hat toss, etc.)
  • Horse and buggy carriage rides
  • Visit from the Hashknife Pony Express Riders
  • Old-fashioned gunfight reenactments
  • Native American camp

Several different ancient Native American tribes first inhabited Arizona's Rim Country, but it is the Tonto Apaches who have made it their home for hundreds of years. They were here when Union soldiers arrived to secure the region from Confederate intrusion. In fact, the soldiers dubbed this area "Apacheria." This is your chance to learn more about their lives, their families and their traditions.

Native American Camp activities planned for the festival are:

  • Native American Indian dancers will perform traditional dances
  • Wickiup tour
  • Native American jewelry making
  • Native American arts and crafts demonstrations
  • Basket weaving

From gold seekers to farmers to cattle ranchers, Payson's pioneer heritage is what shaped the rough Rim Country into the community it is today. A tour around town and a visit to the Rim Country Museum and the Zane Grey Cabin will leave you with an understanding of their sacrifice and perseverance.

Pioneer Town programs slated for the festival are: candle making, soap making, pioneer displays and hand carts, pioneer games and quilting and displays by the Strawberry Patchers.

A variety of other activities will take place as well. The schedule includes:

  • An old-fashioned melodrama, written and produced by Humor Me Improvisational Comedy Group, performed live on the amphitheater stage, tentatively from 11 a.m. to noon and again from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Native American dancers from Holbrook, ages 8 to 15, perform several of their traditional dances in full regalia on the stage from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and again from 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., and also at the Native American Village site from 11 a.m. to noon (times are tentative).

There will be a large antique tractor display at the area by the historical society museum and Zane Grey Cabin, showcasing more than 20 vintage and beautifully restored tractors. Some of those tractors will be pulling hay wagons for guests to ride around the park.

If food is what draws you, then you will not be disappointed. A heritage festival would not be complete without some good, old-fashioned barbecue and ribs, as well as hot dogs and brats, cotton candy, shaved ice, Navajo tacos and kettle corn.

If that is not enough, the Boy Scouts of America will be out in force showing off their lashing and survival techniques during the Boy Scout-O-Rama that will take place in conjunction with the event.

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