The clouds rolled in about 4 p.m., dropping temperatures and a few raindrops on the crowd gathered at Green Valley Park to watch the only fireworks display in the Rim Country.
In the distance, lightning flashed and thunder rumbled in nature’s own fireworks display, but by show time at 9 p.m., the weather had settled down.
The town of Payson hosts annual Fourth of July festivities through the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department. “The feedback from the town is that they love the day because there are events all day long that engage families with games and vendors,” said Kaprice Bachtell, event center coordinator for parks and rec.
The town expected 16,000 to 20,000 people at Monday’s festivities, similar to last year. Azcentral.com listed Payson as one of the top spots to take in fireworks. “I heard of one family that flew in from St. Louis to be with their Arizona family. They set up 10 pop-ups at 7 a.m. with about 15 people under each canopy,” said Bachtell.
Many people came from the Valley to escape the heat. “It’s 120 degrees down in Queen Creek today. My husband’s family has a cabin in Pine and we came here to beat the heat,” said Alicia Taylor.
Even with enough people wandering about Green Valley Park to equal the town’s population, the mood remained peaceful. “We’ve not had an incident yet today,” said Officer Matt Zimmerman from the Payson Police Department.
At the lake, where the fireworks sparkle over the water, DJ Craig blared music.
Promptly at 9 p.m. the first set of fireworks boomed. The music switched from contemporary to military as the show continued for 35 minutes.
Oohs, aahs and gasps accompanied the show.
“It was so long, I thought the finale came a few times,” said Macie Chernov, a 13-year-old from Payson.
As the crowds made their way to their cars in the largest traffic jam Payson sees in a year, the rain started to fall again.
Nature resumed its own fireworks display with lightning and thunder crashing in the distance. So ended another perfect Fourth of July in Payson.