Much like a swarm of bees in search of pollen and nectar, weekend warriors and adrenaline-buzzed thrill seekers from around the state descended upon Payson to test their mettle in the inaugural Mountain High Games.
The competitions, some friendly and some not so affable, were held June 3 to 5 at the Payson Event Center and surrounding areas.
Event organizers at the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism are calling the first-ever games a huge success and are predicting they will become a fixture on the state’s recreation scene for decades to come.
“The weekend was awesome; the sponsors, spectators and participants all said they had a great time,” said Town Special Events Coordinator Deb Rose.
“The bike racers said they couldn’t wait to come back next year.”
The most popular of the eight weekend events for participants was the archery tournament that drew almost 100 marksmen and women eager to show they had what it takes to become the next William Tell.
For spectators, Rose points to the ATV rodeo as the most entertaining event, especially the “Grocery Cart Race.”
In it, two riders — one driving and one as a passenger — engineered quads over the PEC grounds picking up items including an egg, greased watermelon, water balloon and others.
Once all the “grocery” items had been retrieved, riders and the passengers were required to maneuver their quad through an obstacle course without breaking or dropping any of the items.
Those who did were eliminated from the competition.
Rendering the race even more nerve wracking was the presence of several judges armed with stopwatches used to time each quad from start to finish. The fastest times were declared the winners in several divisions.
Another plus that added to the success of the games was moving the sawdust festival to the small arena in PEC.
“It (the small arena) was covered so everyone, spectators and competitors, was in shade,” said Rose.
The blazing sun and summertime heat at PEC has been a problem the town has been trying to solve since the center was built more than a decade ago.
Also with the sawdust festival in a smaller arena than last year when it was held in the large arena, spectators had more up close and personal looks at the action.
Also popular among the 365 entrants was the trail run and mountain bike race held on paths, Jeep trails and forest roads south of Payson.
Rose led the 5K trail run and local mountain biking guru Dan Basinski led the bike race.
Also on the Mountain High Games weekend agenda was a horseshoe tournament, Dutch oven competition and shake your booty, boot scootin’ dances on Friday night at the historic Oxbow Saloon. On Saturday evening, country music performer Candyce gave a rousing concert.
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