The Payson Loggers Sawdust Festival, which will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 23 and Sunday, May 24, can trace some of its strongest roots to a very civic-minded family — the Floyds. Jerry Floyd said his parents, the late J.W. and Vertilee Floyd, started the Sawdust Festival because of their work in the pulp lumber industry and because they thought is was important to have events to bring visitors to Payson in the summer. Working in the lumber business they knew the loggers in the area and surrounding communities.
The Floyds came to the Rim Country in 1966 with sons Lanny and Jerry. They owned and operated Aztec Butane and the Sunset gas station and Floyd’s Logging. Later, the family acquired the land where the Payson Campground & RV Resort is now located and built a KOA Campground there.
Vertilee was active in the chamber of commerce, and with the campground, the family was interested in bringing visitors to area. Preceding the Loggers Sawdust Festival by several years, the Floyds played a big role in getting the Fiddlers Festival going strong.
There are several versions of the story about how the Fiddlers Festival started.
As recounted in the Roundup’s tribute to Vertilee Floyd, written when she died in March 2002, the Fiddlers Festival originated with local fiddlers organizing a contest that took place on the back of a flatbed trailer.
Jerry Floyd recalls a different version. People staying at the KOA would bring their fiddles, guitars and banjos up to the community area (where the office was) and gather around the back steps and play together in the evening. He said that is where the idea of the Fiddlers Festival came from.
Regardless of the origins of the contest, Vertilee Floyd was its driving force from when it began in the early ’70s until she relinquished the reins to Roy Sandoval in 2001.
A few years after the Fiddlers Festival began, Jerry Floyd said his parents started the Loggers Sawdust Festival in 1976. (Some records say it started in 1975, but according to publications in the archives of the Payson Roundup, the first contest was in 1976.)
The first year, only about 300 people came out for the event. The popularity of the program soared in its second year — 2,000 tickets were sold.
Competitors vied for $1,000 in prize money and the Reid Smith Memorial All-Around Trophy.
The Floyd family has a strong connection to the All-Around trophy — it is named for Jerry Floyd’s late father-in-law.
Reid Smith was in the logging business for 20 years, working throughout Arizona. He was killed April 1, 1976 working in the woods near Williams. His daughter, Chris, is married to Jerry. She is a graduate of Payson High School and a longtime employee with the Town of Payson Community Development Department.
The logger to win the Reid Smith All-Around Trophy the most times was Ken Despain, he took home the award four times in 1982, 1984, 1985 and 1986. The last winner was Terry Gilmore in 1993. By 1993, the prize money had grown to a pot of $6,700. Several men won the trophy multiple times: Dan Drorbaugh won in 1978, 1980 and 1981. George Harrison won it in 1988 and 1989. Relatives kept the trophy in the family a couple of times — Gary Crandell won in 1978 (tying with Drorbaugh) and Jody Crandell won in 1979; Andrew Hurd won in 1991 and Daniel Hurd in 1992. The first winner was Ron Smith (no relation to Reid Smith). Other winners were Bob Lowery, 1977; Bill Neal, 1983; Jerry Lanny, 1987; and Johnny Spears, 1990.
Women have competed in the Loggers Sawdust Festival all along, but didn’t get their own Lady Logger of the Year award until 1980. That first award was kept in the Drorbaugh family; Logger of the Year Dan Drorbaugh’s sister Alice Drorbaugh Lay took home the trophy and did a repeat performance in 1981.
Bill Neal’s wife, Irene, won the award in 1982 and again in 1983, the same year Bill won Logger of the Year honors. In an interview last week, Irene said the year she and Bill shared the top spots was the most memorable of all the years the two of them have been involved in the Loggers Sawdust Festival.
Leslie Land was a powerhouse in the Lady Logger of the Year annals, she won the title five times: 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990 and 1992. Tina Harrison took home the award twice, in 1987 and 1988. Also winning the title were Timarea Crandell in 1984 and Monty Spears in 1991.
Over the years the Loggers Sawdust Festival has featured both skilled and fun events for both the professional lumberman and area residents and visitors who want to try their hand and make a bid for prize money.
Events planned for the revived Loggers Sawdust Festival on May 23 and 24 at the Payson Event Center include the following family-oriented contests:
• The log toss — participants get three tries at tossing a 10-foot-long log, between 5 and 7 inches in diameter. The win goes to the individual who tosses the log the greatest distance.
• The log roll — participants use only a cant hook to move a log 20 feet and placing it between two posts 16 feet apart, with both ends touching a post, neither feet nor hands can touch the log.
• The ax throw — toss an ax at a target (30 feet for men, 20 feet for women); score is cumulative after three throws, with the win going to the person with the highest score.
• The rolling pin throw — score is based on distance and accuracy; participants get three tries.
• Greased pole climbing — an 18-foot pole, greased with lard, must be climbed using a three-person team; the win is based on speed.
• Cigar smoking firefighting — participants are given a 5-gallon bladder of water with a pull nozzle and a lighted cigar, then stationed in a 20-foot ring. The object is to put out everyone else’s cigar, while keeping yours lit. The winner is the last person standing with a lit cigar.
Children will also have the opportunity to get in the arena for some fun. Among the contests planned for youngsters are: nail driving (a speed event), pine cone throw (a distance event), a log toss for boys and a rolling pin throw for girls; and log stacking. There will also be a chance for different age groups to scramble through a sawdust pile in search of up to $100 in silver coins.
The events requiring some skill are:
• Men’s Horizontal Bucking
• Men’s Jack & Jack Crosscut
• Men’s Log Toss
• Men’s Single Bucking
• Men’s Power Saw Bucking
• Men’s Ax Throw
• Men’s Log Roll
• Men’s Medley
• Men’s Cutting and Stacking
• Men’s Hot Saw
• Men’s Tree Climbing
• Women’s Jill & Jill Crosscut
• Women’s Horizontal Bucking
• Women’s Ax Throw
• Women’s Medley
• Women’s Rolling Pin Throw
• Women’s Cutting and Stacking
• Jack & Jill Crosscut
A couple of events from past festivals will not be held this year: log burling, which is rolling a log in a pool of water, and tobacco spitting. But while the event count is down a little, the prize money is up. Contestants will be taking away cash and prizes of more than $6,000.
To register to participate, those interested can go to the Web site paysonrimcountry.com and click on the Sawdust Festival site and print both the registration form and the insurance waiver and take them to the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce office at the corner of West Main and Beeline or the parks and recreation office in Green Valley Park. It is recommended entrants also attend one of two meetings held prior to the opening of the Sawdust Festival, one will be Friday evening, May 22, the other will be early Saturday morning, May 23, both will be held at the Payson Event Center.
The Loggers Sawdust Festival is getting its wood from Tree Pro, the sawdust for the treasure hunt is from The Doorstop, power and safety equipment from Stihl, and additional assistance from The Home Depot, the Town of Payson and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Editor’s note: Read more about Jerry Floyd’s family memories of the Loggers Sawdust Festival in the May 20 edition of The Rim Review.