Paddlegate

Grudge match spawns splash of good-humored controversy


Payson firefighters displayed their mettle and won the race with thoughtful use of materials during the highlighted boat race from one end of Green Valley Lake to the other, as part of the National Night Out festivities Saturday.

Payson firefighters displayed their mettle and won the race with thoughtful use of materials during the highlighted boat race from one end of Green Valley Lake to the other, as part of the National Night Out festivities Saturday. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Green Valley Park buzzed with activity during the National Night Out event Saturday.

It was a boat race of Olympic proportions.

On one side, the Payson Police Department lashed water coolers to half a dozen two-by-fours to create a catamaran of sorts. Equipped with only shovels, four officers dutifully lowered the craft into Green Valley Lake and climbed aboard.

The crowd, which lined the shore, collectively held its breath — would it float long enough to make it across the lake?

On the other team, Payson firefighters had connected the halves of plastic storage drums to a wooden frame, painted the contraption a vibrant red and raised a mocking “No Doughnuts” flag.

Like a well-seasoned bobsled team, the four firefighters launched the craft with one graceful push.

From wood, the firefighter team had fashioned oars, which police officers protested as a violation of race rules, which banned all things nautical in the National Night Out grudge match between the Payson Police and Payson Fire Departments.

This was the first time the rival teams had squared off on the lake, but not the first time they had come head-to-head in a race.

For years, the firefighter vs. officer race has headlined National Night Out’s kickoff event. From a bed race to tricycles, firefighters had won every year until last. In a straight-up foot race, officers had finally won.

This year, both departments were tasked with creating seaworthy vessels, but with a twist. Neither could use supplies traditionally found on a boat.

Firefighters argued that since they created their oars out of wood and dowels, they were within the rules.

Police officers cried foul.

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High school volunteer Judy Heller (right) rides down the water slide with Kyra Johnson.

Ignoring their pleas, the announcer cued the boats and they were ... off.

In perfect synchronization, the firefighters rowed away.

Languishing behind, officers hurriedly scooped water, but the design of their vessel hampered their progress. The officers had to limit their shovel strokes to a small area within support braces.

Payson Fire’s Battalion Chief Dan Bramble said his team had drawn up a schematic when it got the challenge — thus avoiding such issues.

Firefighters had worked hours on the craft, even attaching jugs to the front of the boat to create a bow.

The plan paid off.

Although they did not beat any Olympic rowing records, firefighters scooted across Green Valley Lake to the finish line. After their win, the team made a return trip to the struggling cops and soaked them with water guns.

The race was part of a series of events at the park Saturday for National Night Out.

This is the fifth year Payson has participated in NNO, an event that encourages people to get out and meet their neighbors to help deter crime.

The event has a two-fold purpose.

The Aug. 4 day in the park provided a fun way to get the community together.

On Tuesday, Aug. 7, residents are encouraged to go outside, turn on their outside lights, lock their door and meet their neighbors.

When you know your neighbors, you not only recognize when a stranger is casing the area, you can report the suspicious activity, said Police Chief Don Engler.

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