The First Friday Art and Antiques Walk on Main Street in Payson is the best special event in the state.
The event, along with the town’s tourism Web site, won top prize at the 34th Annual Governor’s Rural and Regional Development Conference in Cave Creek Friday.
Just a little more than a year after Payson started the First Friday event on Main Street, Governor Janet Napolitano recognized it.
The First Friday event is held every month along Main Street as merchants stay open extra hours, 5 to 8 p.m. Music from local musicians and jazz from Chuck Proudfoot with the Presbyterian Church is provided along with refreshments and hot dogs from the Kiwanis Club, classic cars and artist’s showcases and shopping deals.
Payson’s Main Street Program Director Cathy Boone entered the town into the competition.
“They give us different categories and if there is any possibility that it fits in that category, I enter,” Boone said. “You don’t know if you’re going to win, but there is always that hope, so that is why I submitted.”
The governor presented awards to towns and organizations that created or implemented successful economic development strategies over the past year.
The Main Street award is for any outstanding project or activity in a Main Street community. Two other events were up against Payson — Nogales’ 10-year celebration and Apache Junction’s Phestival on Phelps.
Boone said it was wonderful to see the governor and receive the plaque honoring the hard work of the Main Street merchants and Tourism and Economic Vitality Director Cameron Davis, who helped design the tourism Web site. Boone, along with Davis, Proudfoot, Minette Richardson, Brenda Mooney and Ken Volz, accepted the awards.
Boone said the town’s support has made the First Fridays successful.
“The biggest thing is there is always the possibility that it could not have had support and lasted one time, but it did have the support,” Boone said.
The town’s tourism Web site, www.paysonrimcountry.com, launched in March, won best tourism Web site.
“We had never had a Web site before a year ago. The town had a Web site, but did not having anything for tourism,” Boone said.
Statistics show people are viewing the Web site’s some 400 pages and it is bringing people into the community, she said.
Boone said she met a woman from Tucson on a First Friday night who stayed all night to wander up and down Main Street and see the merchants.
“So we are getting people here and without the Web site people did not know what we had,” she said.
After the three days of classes at the event, Boone said Davis got new ideas that he will bring back to improve the Web site further.
Minette Richardson, of the Down the Street Galley, was nominated for individual of the year, but lost out to Janeen Trevillyan of Sedona.
“Her hard work and dedication to Main Street is a true asset to our community,” Davis said.
For additional information about First Friday, call Mike Stuart at Gasoline Alley (928) 474-4932, or Brenda Mooney at Bootleg Alley Antiques and Art (928) 472-4323.