The Gila County Pioneer celebration scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 29 in the Tonto Apache gymnasium is sure to be a festive event that pays tribute to those who helped shape Payson and surrounding communities.
The Gila County Pioneer Committee, comprised of about 12 men with deep ties to the Rim Country, hosts the annual celebration.
Among the committee members are Roy Haught, Duke Wilbanks, Ron McDaniel, Tony McDaniel and Kelly Owens.
A common misconception is that the benefit dinner is for pioneers only.
“We have people who say, ‘I’m not going, I’m not a pioneer.’ But it’s for everyone and we invite all to come out and have a good time,” Wilbanks said. “We want people to come out and meet the pioneers.”
Admission is only $10 for an old-fashioned barbecue dinner with all the trimmings, a dance and auction. Children under 5 eat free.
Also, $5 raffle tickets will be sold for a chance at winning a butchered and wrapped whole hog or whole beef.
Another sure-to-be-popular raffle will have as a prize a handmade, free-standing bar crafted by PHS teacher Richard Alvarez’s woodshop class. It comes with two custom handmade stools by Wes Chapman.
New this year is a raffle for a Zane Grey Golden Boy lever action .22-caliber rifle with octagon barrel.
At tomorrow’s celebration, a longtime supporter of the dinner, Ed Childers, will be honored. Childers was once an executive assistant to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Stewart Udall and later a Payson-area historian, Realtor, caterer and cowboy. He died in June and was interned in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery.
Pioneer committee members tout the evening as providing a glimpse of what life was like decades ago in Payson. Among the biggest draws is the old-fashioned cake and pastry auction that were a huge part of the early celebrations then hosted by a now defunct group known as the Cowbelles.
“Some of the pies and cakes sold for over $100 in past years,” said Haught. “It’s a fun way to raise money and all the items are homemade and taste great.”
This year, the committee is asking all pioneer families to make their favorite pie, cake or pastry for the auction.
The scrumptious barbecue, prepared by Haught, is also a special treat.
Side dishes will include Albert Hunt’s cowboy beans, coleslaw and rolls.
Last year’s dinner raised $19,500, much of which went to assist the Rim Country’s young people.
In May, Payson High School FFA sponsor and agriculture instructor Jadee Rohner received $5,000, PHS woodshop teacher Richard Alvarez received a check for $5,000 and Young Public School FFA sponsor Sue Wade was awarded $10,000.
Eddie comes home
Eddie Duran has been released from a Valley hospital and has returned to his Payson home to continue rehabilitating from a brain aneurism he suffered weeks ago.
Eddie is rapidly improving, talking and visiting friends.
Through his dedication to Little League, his love of the outdoors and his presence in the community, Eddie — who is employed by Payson Concrete — has accumulated a wide circle of friends who are now stepping up to help his family with medical expenses.
For the benefit, those friends settled on a benefit barbecue, camp-style dinner prepared by Clayton Randall. It will be beef, cowboy beans and all the fixings.
The dinner will be served for donations.
The benefit is set for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 3 at Payson Concrete.
Benefit organizers have also scheduled several raffles including one that has as a prize a full Angus beef, cut, prepared and freezer-ready. Friends of Eddie’s have also donated seven rifles, which will be raffled.
Tickets for the beef and rifles will be sold for $20 each or six for $100.
Also, an envelope containing $1,000 in cash will be raffled. Tickets are $50 each.
Raffle tickets may be purchased at Bud’s Plumbing, Payson Concrete, NAPA Auto and SemStream.
Turkey Trot 5k
The annual Turkey Trot 5K, hosted by the Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department is Nov. 17 at Green Valley Park.
The fee to participate is $40.
Pre-registered participants receive a long-sleeved sweatshirt. Day-of registration is available, but there is no sweatshirt guarantee for day-of registrations. To learn more, call (928) 474-5242, ext. 7.