But mostly, they had a rare, feel-good time — like laying out a big picnic in slanted sunlight during a brief break in a long hailstorm.
Some 250 people gathered on Thursday for the first-ever ceremony for the Payson Roundup’s “Best of Rim Country” awards at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino.
The Roundup ran big ads during the month of January asking readers to cast their votes for the best of just-about-anything in Rim Country, then compiled the results in a bewilderment of categories, including the nitty-gritty of dentists, insurance, gas and car repairs — to the lifestyle vitals of finding love, working out, dancing fast and catching up on gossip.
The Roundup has released the poll results in past years, but never before hosted an awards ceremony. To stage an event that drew the biggest business community turnout in years, the Roundup teamed with the Mazatzal Casino, which donated the meeting space and food.
Fortunately for the partnership, perhaps, Roundup readers voted the casino the best hotel/motel.
The awards ceremonies honored the three top mentions in each category and then gave the winners a plaque and a $25 gift certificate to the casino’s restaurant.
The participants seemed happy for the chance to celebrate local favorites — all business survivors after an intermittently brutal year that cut sales overall by 15 to 20 percent and left a distressing, gap-toothed grimace of empty storefronts scattered throughout town.
The genial audience cheered, stomped and hooted through an awards ceremony that stretched past an hour long, with participants rotating past the open bar, the chocolate fountain for dipped strawberries, fruit trays and heaps of cheese and crackers. Everyone seemed to have their favorites, whispering their predictions as the categories scrolled by — and hollering for their favorites.
You had your basic needs — like Neumann Paint & Supply in the best paint store category.
You had your necessary luxuries — like Payson Jewelers in the best jewelry store category.
You had your entertainment necessities — like best local music group winners Junction 87, a hard-working country band that rocks out every Sunday at the Buffalo, but had to miss ceremony to play a gig in Phoenix.
The best firefighter nominees got the biggest sustained standing ovation, with Mike Brandt from the Pine/Strawberry Fire Department getting the nod.
One of the most immediately useful awards went to Payson Councilor Su Connell — who got best town councilor, beating out two other candidates for re-election, Ed Blair and Mike Vogel.
The Buffalo rated as the best bar, Tiny’s as the best place for a business meeting with eating, McDonald’s as the best fast food, Macky’s as the best lunch restaurant, Fargo’s as best dinner restaurant and Crosswinds, out at the airport, touched down perfectly in the best breakfast category.
Readers figured El Rancho has the best margaritas, Macky’s has the best burger, Pizza Factory has the best pizza, Cedar Ridge has the best sandwich and Diamond Point has the best steak.
Looking for true love? Buffalo Bar and Grill won in the coveted best place to meet singles.
Looking for delicious dirt? Walmart won the perhaps even more vital best place to catch up on gossip category — or so the rumor goes.
The best moment of the evening?
Could be the last item on the ballot — the “anything we didn’t ask category.”
Readers had three top answers to that final “Best Thing about Rim Country” question.
The top three mentions went to:
And the winner is ... (drum roll here) ...
Ah, ha: It’s the people.
Everyone cheered. Well said.