A perfect storm put Payson on the map to draw national media attention by hosting the rollout of Chevrolet and GMC’s newest line of three quarter and one-ton pick-up trucks.
The Rim Country’s terrain, weather, and location cinched the deal.
“Our other choices were the Rockies or Maryland,” said Tom Wilkinson, who works in the communications department of Chevrolet and decided to pick Payson to stage the media event because the roads and time of year.
For three days last week, Chevrolet engineers, communications employees, and staff staged a media party at the Journigan House for 80 journalists from all over the U.S. and Canada.
Unfortunately, no one stayed in the Rim Country — so they missed the sunrises and sunsets.
Instead, the Chevy employees and journalists spent the night at the Boulders, a Waldorf Astoria Resort in Carefree.
Wilkinson said staff brought journalists up Highway 17, through Camp Verde down the Rim through Strawberry and Pine to the Journigan House for lunch.
“That way they got to see all the terrain and grades,” said Wilkinson.
Wilkinson, Chief Engineer Jeffrey Luke, and Communications Executive Director Terry Rhadigan all said the Rye grade offered a perfect place for drivers to try out pulling a boat trailer or Airstream with the newly engineered trucks.
“These trucks have a system to slow down the truck as it goes down the hill without brakes,” said Luke.
It’s called the Exhaust Brake and sits on the “piano keys” of controls available to the driver.
Reporters from the East Coast to Los Angeles attended to take test-drives and write about their experiences.
Boston Globe reporter George Kennedy said the Rim Country reminded him of the North Hampton area of Massachusetts, where he “cut his teeth off-roading.” He said he covers just about everything for the paper.
Kennedy said he felt the Chevy trucks were “very refined” for work trucks and he liked the area around Payson.
Curt Bennink used to live in Phoenix and came up to the Rim Country with his neighbor to camp, but now he lives in Iowa and writes for the Cygnus Construction Network. “(Rim Country has) beautiful scenery and good grades good for pulling trailers,” he said.
Aaron Gold, a freelancer working for About.com on this assignment, said it was a pretty short event. “We fly in, eat, get the briefing, eat, and try out the trucks,” he said, “It’s like we’re babies, you have to feed us all the time.”
Marcus Offens, staff at the Journigan House, said the three days had been a lot of fun.
“Each day is a new group,” he said, “They’re all happy. Everybody loves the pulled pork.”
Offens said the Chamber suggested Chevy use the Journigan House because of its location and layout. Offens said the restaurant served about 60 to 75 lunches each day of the event.
Wilkinson said everyone enjoyed the weather for the three days, but as the event concluded, the clouds rolled in.