It was a night of celebrating survivors.
From those who made it through another year in the economic downturn.
A man who fought cancer.
And those who campaigned to keep one of the area’s natural beauties open.
More than 300 business owners and supporters gathered Monday night at the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino for the annual “Best of Rim Country” bash hosted by the Payson Roundup.
Folks packed the casino’s large banquet hall, hoping to win the bragging rights that come with finishing first in a poll of Roundup readers asked to name their favorite things. Categories cover nearly everything — from best sandwich and doctor to best hike and fishing hole.
This year, nearly 1,000 ballots were submitted online and on paper, a 206 percent increase from last year, when paper ballots were the only way to cast a vote.
There were several first-time winners and many more repeats. Read a complete list of winners in Friday’s Roundup.
Multi-year winners that continued their streak Monday included Payson Jewelers, Chapman Auto Center, Payson Councilor Su Connell, veterinarian Lorenzo Gonzales, the Buffalo Bar and Grill as “best bar and tavern,” and Sal Mercado as “best bartender.”
The Tonto Natural Bridge swept several categories, including “best place to hike” and “best historic site.” Just a few years ago, the bridge was nearly closed due to devastating state cutbacks. Payson residents campaigned to keep the bridge open and the state parks board listened, reopening it five days a week. John Wilson, treasurer of Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, proudly accepted the awards.
While the evening’s speakers congratulated business owners for making it another year in one of the worst economic downturns, the highlight of the night was the crowd’s standing ovation for Greg Day, owner of Macky’s Grill, who accepted awards for best burger and lunch spot. Day battled cancer last year and the community rallied behind him, donating at several fund-raisers to help cover medical costs.
“That is what our community does, we come together and support each other in times like this,” said Roundup Advertising Director Bobby Davis, who emceed the event.
The night offered everyone a chance to celebrate all that it takes to survive and thrive another year.
“In these tough economic times, we all need to pat each other on the back,” said John Naughton, Roundup publisher.