The Town of Payson's float and dancing Ponderosa Pine trees were among the highlights of the Fiesta Bowl Parade in Phoenix Saturday.
Thousands of onlookers cheered the trees on, asking them to spin and twirl. The float was such a hit it garnered the parade's top two awards - Spirit of Arizona and Children's Choice.
Resident John Wakelin was among the 30 'trees' thrilled to learn Payson had taken home the parade's top two honors.
"Can you believe that?" he said. "This is the first time we have entered into the Fiesta Bowl Parade and we have already won two awards."
Tourism Director Cameron Davis was visibility moved when he learned about the awards. He credited the win to the volunteers, some that worked up until the night before.
As many as 300 people worked on the float for two months, including 20 quilters that handmade each Ponderosa Pine outfit.
"The camaraderie of folks that came together and unselfishly gave of themselves to do such a great thing and we are getting to showcase the Town of Payson because of that," he said.
Wakelin, who won Volunteer of the Year recently, said he was proud to be part of such a community.
"This is our way of showing off to the rest of the state what a wonderful place Payson is," he said.
Davis, who came up with the design for the float, said he had never worked on a float before. When he learned APS was waiving the $15,000 entry fee, he started sketching ideas. He said the concept of a woodsy scene complete with tent, mountain biker, anglers and hunters to highlight the areas outdoor activities came easily.
"It really wasn't hard because that really is what Payson is," he said. "We are the the outdoor recreational hub for central Arizona."
Getting the rest of Arizona to know that has been the challenge, he said.
The success of the float, however, has garnered tons of media attention.
"You can't buy that kind of coverage or that kind of advertising," Davis said. "It would cost us probably half a million dollars for the amount of stuff we have gotten in the last three days."
And promoting Payson is the reason Davis gave up his nights and weekends to complete the float.
"We did this to promote tourism and get people to come up and go fishing and camping."
The parade included150 entries, including nine floats and the Payson High School band.