Those of us who have lived in the Rim Country for years, fondly remember how much fun the original Payson Sawdust Festival was. We recall the event being a huge draw, attracting throngs of fans and onlookers from around the state to the old rodeo grounds located near where the Rumsey Park library and multipurpose field are now located.
In short, the festival was a hoot.
But after the rustic rodeo grounds were shut down and the festival moved to the Payson Event Center, the event lost most of its luster and was discontinued in the early 1990s.
After a 16-year hiatus, a new, improved and resurrected festival was held in 2009 at PEC.
It, however, enjoyed only limited success with few fans filling the stands and only 43 contestants entered.
Those who sponsored the revived festival, Cameron Davis and his employees at the Town of Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, decided to shift gears and pump up the weekend by adding games, tournaments, races, rides and distance runs that would be attractive to a wider swath of the population.
What organizers settled on were eight events that reflect life in the Rim Country — ATV trail rides, archery tournament, ATV rodeo, trail run, mountain bike race, horseshoe tournament, Dutch oven cook-off and the sawdust festival.
They’ll all begin today, June 3, continue tomorrow and wrap up Sunday, June 5, at the Payson Event Center.
Registration, if not done online, will be held 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. today at PEC.
Later this evening, open archery range shooting and an ATV trail ride will be held.
At 9 p.m., a country music concert and dance will be held at the historic Oxbow Saloon on Main Street. Nashville recording artist Candyce, who recently released the album “Kickin’ up Dust,” will perform.
She will also be on stage at 7 p.m. tomorrow, June 4, in a summer concert series at Green Valley Park.
Following the concert, about 9 p.m., another dance will be held at the Oxbow, this time featuring the Landon Shill group that appears frequently at East Valley watering holes playing Americana and country rock music.
The festival kicks off with an open archery range shoot and twilight ATV and quad trail ride, along with a barbecue supper, then starts again at 8 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, with an ATV trail ride and continues with adult and kids mountain bike races, a 5K trail run, 3D archery tournament, blind draw horseshoe contest, Dutch oven cooking competition, Loggers Sawdust Festival and at 5 p.m. the ATV rodeo.
The rodeo includes several clever, and possibly bizarre, events including ATV bowling, grocery race, hide race and a hot shot competition in which riders are given a large water gun and must navigate a course shooting a ping pong ball off strategically placed cones.
The games resume at 7 a.m., Sunday, June 5 with an ATV trail ride. From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. the finals of the Loggers Sawdust Festival and open archery range shooting will be held. At noon, the games wrap up with the Sawdust Festival Awards Ceremony and the doling out of cash and prizes.
In planning the games, Davis emphasizes that while the events will draw some professional and seasoned competitors, they are also open to novices. Beginners and amateurs are welcome, explaining various skill levels can be accommodated because most events feature age/ability categories.