The Tonto Apache Tribe’s Mazatzal Casino started in a small manufactured structure in the early 1990s and grew first to this impressive facility, which has now become the casino’s event center as the gaming facilities were expanded into the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino. The Rim Country has benefited from the tribe’s success in many ways — it is now the area’s largest employer and it has shared revenues with both the Payson and Star Valley communities, the school district and other groups and organizations over the years.
The Tonto Apache Tribe is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its tribal recognition by the federal government with four days of festivities, Wednesday, Oct. 3 through Saturday, Oct. 6.
After years of hardship and unrest, the members of the Tonto Apache worked tirelessly for recognition and ultimately were officially recognized by the federal government as a tribe on Oct. 6, 1972, which is celebrated today as Tribal Recognition Day.
On May 31, 1974, President Nixon signed the 85-acre reservation for the use and benefit of the Tonto Apache Tribe.
In 1993 the Tonto Apache Tribe signed a compact with the state of Arizona to conduct gaming activities. Revenues from Mazatzal Hotel and Casino are helping with housing, scholarships and social programs within the reservation. Mazatzal Hotel and Casino is now the largest employer in Rim Country.
The celebration starts with an opening run at 6 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 3 from Home Depot to the Tonto Apache Recreation Center gym. There will be a balloon release followed by breakfast in the gym at 8 a.m. There will be a punt, pass and kick competition at Rumsey Park at 10 a.m. For the children too young to take part in the run or contest, there will be pony rides, a bounce house and arts and crafts table.
The evening of Wednesday, Oct. 3 there will be a Tonto Apache Royalty Pageant at 6:30 p.m. in the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino Event Center to which the public is invited. Doors will open at 5 p.m. for a private dinner, with the pageant to follow.
Thursday, Oct. 4 is a day of contests. Rez Youth Games will start at noon in the gym and include “Fear Factor,” pie eating, basketball shoot-out, scavenger hunt and a volleyball game. At 2 p.m. there will be a fry bread contest outside the log cabin.
Contests continue Friday, Oct. 5 with a horseshoe tournament at 9 a.m. at the ramada and cowboy golf at noon.
There will be a barbecue beef potluck and gospel concert at 4:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 5 at the gym. A Creedence Relived (a Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band) concert, open to the public, will be held at 6:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 5 in the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino Event Center. Tickets for the concert are available in the hotel/casino gift shop or by phone reservation at 1-800-777-7529, extension 6200.
A traditional social dance is planned for 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 5 in front of the log cabin.
The bulk of the festivities will fill Saturday, Oct. 6. Things get started at 7 a.m. with a march from the rodeo grounds to the tribal administration building. There will be a crown dancing competition at 8 a.m. at the north end of the rodeo grounds. Also starting at 8 a.m. is another run, a 4-mile race from The Home Depot to the rodeo grounds, a Kids 1-mile run is planned for 8:15 a.m.
A dinner will be held in the casino bingo hall at 4:30 p.m., with doors opening at 4 p.m. The elders of the tribe will be presented gifts at 5 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m., a comedian will perform.
A fireworks show is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. and the public is invited to come out and enjoy the program.
The fireworks will be followed by a private concert by the Creedence Relived band at 8:30 p.m.
For more information, call (928) 472-1170, extension 5405.