Norman Rockwell would have wondered which scene to paint from the Payson Independence Day celebration.
Would he have stopped at the Payson Golf Course and captured one of the many impromptu football games roughed out next to families sprawled out on blankets covered by canopies languidly enjoying a picnic?
Would he have come to the lake and rendered the scene of lovers gazing at each other while lounging on their blanket trying to be in their own world as families next to them struggled to keep toddlers within sight as they waited for the fireworks display set to start at 9 p.m.?
Would he have wanted to seize the moment when a hungry celebrant shoved a just-off-the-grill hot dog into his mouth as children ran between his legs?
Or would he have painted the pre-teen plaintively peddling, “Glow-sticks — only a dollar!” while children ran around, waving their own sticks in a game of tag?
Payson, land of the small-town Independence Day celebrations.
And then the fireworks.
Promptly at 9 p.m., without any warning to transition from the peace of the lake in post-sunset tranquility to booming, bomb-like fireworks, the display started.
People startled, dogs barked and children froze in the midst of their games.
Soon though, the the sparkling lights, whistles, crackles, and the smell of burning sulfur mesmerized the crowd, drawing coos of delight and applause of approval.
For more than half an hour, the fireworks technicians kept the display moving with never a gap in the show.
Phoenicians up for the display said they loved how personal the show felt.
“In Phoenix, they of course have more money to have a bigger finale, but here — it felt like you were part of the show,” said Jeff Martis.
He and his family usually go to the Steele Indian School Park near downtown Phoenix to watch the display.
This year, friends gave his family the gift of getting out of the triple-digit extreme heat of the Valley to stay at their Rim Country cabin.
“The temperature gauge never went over 80 at the cabin today,” said Jeff’s mother-in-law Sherry DeMiut.