You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
Chamber's Business Showcase a festive, well-attended event

This year’s theme — Explore Rim Country — inspired 36 businesses to be creative at the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Business Showcase on Saturday.

Visitors gathered around the stage on the hour to learn if they had won one of the many door prizes and giveaways at the event.

The showcase attracted a steady stream of visitors who came to meet local business owners and learn more about products and services offered.

Tyler Egbert won the 50/50 drawing and donated the $147 proceeds to the Hurricane Dorian relief fund coordinated by Payson United Methodist Church.

Maia Crespin, director of the chamber, estimates more than 500 people visited the event, plus vendors and volunteers.

Sponsors of the Business Showcase included:

Crystal Sponsors: Payson Care Center; Discover Gila County/Explore the Wild and PHI Air Medical.

Diamond Sponsors: Mazatzal Hotel & Casino (where the event was held); and Wendy Larchick At The Rim Team.

Platinum Sponsors: Banner Payson Medical Center; Native Air; Integra Homes at the Rim; Jackson White Attorneys at Law; Ironhorse Signs; Rim Liquor/Rim Wash; APS, Payson; AZ Pro Rodeo; Arizona Complete Health; Walmart and Payson Care Center.

See a photo gallery online at

Valley restaurant, Duza's Kitchen, coming to Main Street

A Valley man is moving his successful brunch restaurant to Payson this fall.

German-trained Mensur Duzic plans to open Duza’s Kitchen in the former location of the 703 on Main.

Duzic won’t have much work to do in terms of updates to get the blue farmhouse on Main Street up and running. The former restaurant owner left nearly everything behind when they closed in March. From the tables and chairs, cooking supplies to the dishes and even bottles of wine, the space feels as if it just closed for dinner service.

Duzic and his wife Victoria Benavidez plan to make the space their own with unique touches, like original art, but will leave much the same, as everything is in working order.

Duzic said he has dreamed of opening a restaurant in Rim Country for years, but it took an old friend to get him to make the move.

Duzic met chef Jack Etter while working at the Oaks Restaurant on Main Street in Payson in the early 1990s. Etter had opened the Oaks in 1990 in what is now the Risser Thomas Eye Clinic and was looking for a sous-chef. Duzic applied and Etter found they worked well together. Duzic worked at the Oaks for several years until moving to the Valley to work at the Buttes.

The two ultimately lost touch. Then five years ago, Etter saw a Valley news broadcast featuring Duzic, who was the executive chef at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Etter contacted Duzic and they met up to fish in Rim Country. Turns out Duzic had been visiting the Pine area for years because Benavidez’s family owns a cabin in the area. Etter meanwhile was working as a handyman in Payson after closing the Oaks in 2000.

This time, they stayed in touch.

Then, in 2015, after 13 years at the hospital, a job Duzic said he loved, Duzic opened his own restaurant.

“It was very hard for me to leave the kids and doctors and staff,” he said.

Duzic opened Duza’s Kitchen on 12th Street in Phoenix.

The Valley restaurant, located in a converted home, was popular, with an average rating of 4.5 stars on Yelp out of 512 reviews. An article by Phoenix New Times in 2015 said, “... Duza’s Kitchen already has us intrigued with a globally inspired menu of ingredient-driven food.”

About a year ago, Duzic had dinner with Etter at the 703 on Main. He liked the space and the food so when Etter told him in July the restaurant had closed, the two joked they should buy it.

That innocent joking led to real action at the end of July when Duzic and Etter met with the building owner and worked out a deal. Duzic is leasing the space with the option to buy.

After four years of running Duza’s Kitchen in the Valley, Duzic closed it up at the end of August and moved it to Payson.

Duzic is excited to get cooking in the new space, which features a bigger kitchen than the Valley location. And Etter will be cooking at his side. Except this time Etter will be Duzic’s sous-chef.

Duzic plans to keep the menu mostly the same as his Valley location for breakfast and lunch and add dinner service, something he didn’t offer in the Valley.

For breakfast, options at his Valley location included an English breakfast; calabacitas; breakfast lavosh; crepes; hash; eggs Benedict with pork belly; a build-your-own-omelet and a Mediterranean dish that came with naan bread, hummus, tzatziki, stuffed grape leaves and eggs.

For lunch, he offered salads, sandwiches and other light options. There was a brisket Reuben on rye, sweet potato gnocchi with roasted vegetable, tomato basil bisque and a caprese salad.

Duzic said since he has cooked all over the world, his style of cooking is a blend of Italian, American and Balkan.

Duzic grew up in Bosnia. He attended culinary school in Sarajevo and Germany. While in Germany, Duzic also studied ice sculpturing, according to a 1995 article in the Mogollon Advisor.

He worked in Italy and Bugojno and had his own restaurant in Bugojno, the Seagull.

Duzic came to the U.S. in 1991 and has since worked in several states.

In Payson, Duzic plans to add an outdoor spit so he can serve rotisserie meats.

He also plans to sell Serbian wine and beer and have an espresso bar.

He tentatively plans to open Tuesday and Wednesday for breakfast and lunch; offer breakfast, lunch and dinner Thursday through Saturday and offer brunch on Sundays.

Tonto Community Concert Association launches 41st season

The Tonto Community Concert Association’s 2019-2020 season starts this month featuring a performance by Ben Gulley with the Timeless Trio at 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Payson High School Auditorium.

Gulley is an American operatic tenor whose career includes lead roles in Mozart’s Requiem, Aida and Bernstein’s Broadway and more. Joined by the Timeless Trio, the program takes the audience on a musical journey featuring famous selections from Broadway, classical and Americana genres.

2019-20 season

Tajci–Waking Up in America,

7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 8By age 19, Tajci was a pop superstar in her country of Croatia. She achieved platinum status selling a million records and packing sold-out venues. Tajci and her sister Sanya join acclaimed pianist, Brian Hanson, in presenting a musical cabaret-style show of the American Songbook with international flair. Tajci has performed in theater and cabaret houses in New York City and Los Angeles, composed, produced and toured extensively with original narrative shows, and produced and hosted about 100 episodes of the TV show, “Waking Up in America.”

Dan Miller’s Cowboy

Music Review, 7 p.m.,

Thursday, Nov. 14Long before Dan was hosting television shows like PBR Bull Riding, American Magazine and Due West, he was playing the showrooms of Nevada with The Dan Miller Band. Dan has spent over half his life in front of television cameras and on stage, entertaining. For the past 14 years he has performed for more than 160,000 people from 65-plus countries at his “Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue” in Cody, Wyo. With daughter Hannah on fiddle and Wendy Corr on bass adding vocal harmonies, their program ranges from Americana and Western to bluegrass and gospel.

Jason Lyle Black, 7 p.m.,

Thursday, Jan. 16Jason Lyle Black is an award-winning pianist, entertainer and composer whose combination of music, comedy and audience interaction creates a one-of-a-kind show experience. Black is known for his unique ability to develop a strong connection with any audience, whether through his comedy bits like “Songs Not to Play at People’s Weddings and Funerals” or his incredible artistry on piano favorites like “Clair de Lune” or “Rhapsody in Blue.” Audiences are amazed at both his variety and showmanship as a consummate artist and entertainer.

Loren & Mark, 7 p.m.,

Thursday, Jan. 30Mark and Loren continue to wow audiences around the globe with their world-class guitar show. New Zealand native Mark Mazengarb and New Yorker Loren Barrigar share a unique musical chemistry rich with both virtuosity and sensitive musicality. Their repertoire draws on many musical influences including Americana, jazz, classical, bluegrass, gypsy jazz and more. The pair is best known for their rhythmic finger-style technique, classic renditions, improvisation and vocal duets.

Sons of Serendip, 7 p.m.,

Tuesday, Feb. 11Sons of Serendip is a musical group of four friends consisting of a harpist, cellist, pianist and lead vocalist, who through a series of serendipitous events came together in graduate school at Boston University. The quartet was a finalist on Season 9 of “America’s Got Talent,” gaining popularity by offering fresh interpretations of popular music. Since the talent competition, Sons of Serendip has toured nationally, lighting up audiences with their creative and emotionally stirring arrangements and original compositions.

Sail On: The Beach Boys

Tribute, 2:30 P.M., Sunday,

March 8Sail On brings a young look and authentic sound reminiscent of the original Beach Boys during the prime of their career. The group’s harmonies capture the sound of the iconic band and transport the audience to the beach for an afternoon of memories and Fun, Fun, Fun. Members of Sail On have performed with musicians from Brian Wilson’s band, The Zombies, Earth Wind and Fire, Cheap Trick, Mark Lindsay and produced recordings for Micky Dolenz.

Celtic Angels Ireland, 7 p.m.,

Wednesday, March 25The energetic, exciting Celtic Angels Ireland deliver a celebration of everything Irish. Through their shared zeal and passion for Ireland’s musical traditions, this troupe enables their audiences to experience the Real Ireland. Celebrating their cherished heritage through Irish dance, music, and song is something these entertainers take very seriously. Organizers say you’ll be enthralled from the moment the lights dim as the songs of Ireland, rigorously precise dances, and traditional musicianship carry you to Ireland on wings of music.

All concerts are held at the Payson High School Auditorium. Subscribers receive tickets to eight exceptional and wide-ranging types of concerts performed by professional artists. Subscriptions are available for $100 (or $12.50 per concert). Individual adult tickets at the door for each concert are $25. Children and students under the age of 18 are admitted at no charge when accompanied by a ticketed adult.

For details or to purchase a subscription online, visit For further information, call Sandy at 928-472-2423, or Jan at 303-903-2895, or email

Contact the reporter at

Amid concussion concerns, numbers remain steady for PHS football

Is football dying?

Well, the country’s most popular sport has been healthier with participation waning.

The long-term future of the game is in question nationally as participation numbers have dropped in recent years with parents holding their children out of youth tackle football because of concerns over concussion risk and studies that conclude that youngsters shouldn’t play tackle football.

A growing percentage of parents across the country now support banning youth tackle football. A recent study by the University of Washington School of Medicine showed that 61 percent of parents supported bans on youth tackle football. An additional 24 percent showed that they might support age restrictions.

Rim Country Middle School football coach David Blalock said the 20 players this season on each of the seventh- and eighth-grade teams he helps coach is the fewest he’s seen in 10 years of coaching at the school. However, he believes that has more to do with smaller class sizes than a trend. He’s optimistic that the numbers will grow in the next couple of years.

“It goes up and down,” Blalock said of roster sizes. “It depends on the class size. We’ve had as many as 32 or 35. One of our coaches also coaches fifth- and sixth-grade youth football, so he knows what’s coming up. He says he thinks there will be more next year because there are more kids playing (on that team).”

The Roundup reached out to Payson Youth Football officials for their input, but did not get a response before this story went to print.

Payson High School varsity football head coach Bryan Burke wants parents to know that the game has changed for the better.

“It’s a safer game now than it has ever been,” Burke said.

Burke starred as a defensive end on Payson’s 2008 undefeated state championship team before playing at Scottsdale Community College and South Dakota State University. Now the Longhorns’ coach wants parents concerned about the safety of the sport to look at both sides of the issue.

“I just ask parents to make an educated decision and not (look at just) one perspective,” Burke said.

Some have argued an increased number of diagnosed concussions doesn’t mean the game is more dangerous than it used to be, but that the spotlight shining on the issue has resulted in a greater focus on player safety. Years ago, many concussions went undiagnosed and players often kept playing. That’s no longer the case.

Burke said more emphasis on concussion awareness is good. Over the last few years, football organizations have implemented a series of tests or a concussion protocol that a student-athlete must pass to return to action if it’s suspected they may have suffered a concussion. Student-athletes also receive concussion awareness training.

“We had probably six (athletes) last year that sat out for the concussion protocol,” Burke said. “Now concussion protocol and having a diagnosed concussion are two different things. I can think of one kid we had last year that sat out a week or two weeks for a concussion.

“Since I’ve been here, I may be able to think of three or four kids we had sitting out of practice for concussions. And a lot of times that’s for things like a kid falling down and hitting his head on the grass like you’d do in the backyard, not necessarily from contact.

“There are signs early in the season you look for. A kid says, ‘I have a headache.’ Well, there are a lot of reasons you might have a headache. So, there are signs and we take every sign serious and we play it safe.”

In 2002, Dr. Bennet Omalu discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disorder with symptoms such as memory loss, rage, mood swings and suicidal thoughts, while performing autopsies on former NFL players. Repeated head injuries can lead to CTE. Younger people are more at risk.

But Burke said it’s a different game today.

He points to rule changes with an eye on player safety, an emphasis on coaching better tackling techniques and better helmets as reasons for improved safety.

“The game’s definitely played differently than it was 20 years ago,” Burke said. “The leading with the head has kind of been eliminated.

“Back in the 1980s and ’90s it was a more physical game. The technology they had, along with the techniques taught then, led to a lot of serious head injuries.”

Some former players hardly recognize the game anymore because tackles that used to be cheered a few decades ago have been banned and routinely result in disqualification.

“A lot of guys who played in the ’80s and ’90s say they hate watching football today because it’s not physical enough,” Burke said.

A Payson varsity player was ejected from each of the Longhorns’ first two games this season for “targeting” or leading with their helmet on a tackle. It’s not always clear whether a player led with his helmet or shoulder pads. And high school officials don’t have the benefit of the slow-motion instant replays that NFL and college officials utilize.

Today’s helmets provide more safety than they did in Burke’s playing days.

“The technology improvements since even when I played 10 years ago is incredible,” he said.

Legislators in the United States have passed no laws banning children from tackle football. And there is no law limiting at what age kids can play tackle football.

Canada this year banned full-squad tackle football for children under the age of 13 starting in 2022. However, children haven’t been banned from playing tackle football anywhere in the U.S.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 1,036 million boys at 14,079 high schools took part in 11-player football. It’s the most popular sport with 400,000 more participants than the next most popular sport, outdoor track.

Despite a declining enrollment, Payson’s football participation numbers haven’t taken a big hit. In fact, more students (71) came out this year than last year (65), according to Payson High athletic director Rich Ormand. Burke said they typically have between 60-70 students playing football.

He said some have quit, which is usual, leaving him with 62 players to split among varsity and junior varsity teams. Attrition during the season is normal. By the end of last season, the number of players dropped to about 52, Burke said.

“We have a few more this year than last year,” he said. “I came across a program from 2008 and we had 72 or 73. So it hasn’t gone down much. But we’ve had years when we’ve had like 50.”

Burke heard a sobering statistic at a meeting for coaches across the state in July.

“The participation numbers in youth football in the Pacific Region are down the last several years I believe 24 percent,” he said. “The numbers in flag football have come up. So the belief is a lot of parents with younger kids are holding them out.”

Burke thinks the game will bounce back with numbers increasing across the country.

“I think the darker days are behind us, participation wise,” Burke said. “It got rough for a while.”

Contact the reporter at

New off-road trail use signs going up around Payson

Hoping to promote responsible off-road use, a volunteer group is installing information kiosks with trail information around Rim Country.

The Tonto Recreation Alliance or TRAL (pronounced trail) has so far installed six maps in the Payson area and is looking to add several more.

Rich Smith, president of TRAL, said the group is working on maps for the Bulldog Canyon area and will move on to other areas in the Tonto National Forest in the coming year.

“We think it’s likely that we’ll install dozens of these style OHV user maps around the forest as well as larger format, 4-foot square versions in informational kiosks,” he said. “We also intend to include similar signs for information about specific points of interest and for public education.”

One of the closest signs to town is located on the Houston Mesa Road, just after you turn off State Route 87 north of Payson.

Off-road use is huge in the Tonto National Forest. The 2.8-million-acre forest, which stretches from the outskirts of Phoenix to the Mogollon Rim, is one of the most visited in the nation, with about 4.8 million people living within an hour’s drive of the forest.

It is the last forest in Arizona to come up with a travel management plan. After a decade of study and re-study, the Tonto National Forest in April released the latest — and maybe final — version of a network of 6,000 established miles of roads and trails for off-road use.

The draft of the final plan would ban off-roaders from most of the Payson Area Trails System (PATS), but add 76 miles of road to the system open to the public, plus another 50 miles of roads and trails left open to administrative use.

The plan would leave open to public use 3,000 miles of roads and nearly 3,000 miles of motorized trails. And it would close to the public another 3,000 miles of roads and trails, many of them tracks through the forest created by repeated use by cross-country riders.

Until the Tonto National Forest finalizes the travel management plan, a full-forest user map is not yet available.

While the plan is not yet done, off-road use continues. Hoping to point people in the right direction, TRAL started experimenting with simple, local area you-are-here maps in the Sycamore Creek off-highway vehicle (OHV) area about five years ago.

“While out for recreation or volunteer work in the area, we regularly ran into forest visitors who were lost and needed to find their way to the area entrances,” Smith said. “These experiments were successful so we got permission from the Tonto to start making some additional OHV user maps for other areas.”

The group started with an improved and expanded version of the Sycamore Creek map to include the Rolls OHV area. They have also installed maps in the Hewitt Station area, a heavy use portion of Cave Creek.

The new signs go hand-in-hand with TRAL’s existing work to monitor and sign OHV trails in the Tonto.

“This program has used staff and volunteer efforts to travel about 2,800 miles of OHV routes in the forest to monitor the conditions of the trails and install route markers,” he said. “While the official decisions from the forest about which routes will remain open and which will close will come from the conclusion of the travel management process, our maps and signs are meant to begin the education process of which trails the public should be using.”

Smith believes the new signs will help cut down on illegal trail use.

“We believe that the majority of recreational trail users including hikers, bikers, equestrians and motorized users will use the trails that they are supposed to if provided clear information,” he said.

TRAL, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was established in 2009 to help manage off-highway vehicle recreation exclusively in the Tonto National Forest. Volunteers and staff help with trail repairs and work to educate the public about responsible recreation.

A grant from Polaris Industries and RideNow Powersports helped fund the new trail maps and frames. In Payson, local businesses also contributed as well.

“We are very thankful to all of the sponsors who pitched in to make this project a reality. As a nonprofit organization, TRAL is very mindful of stretching every dollar we receive as far as it will go,” he said.

The sign/map frames are manufactured by a local business for about $300 each and the information inserts are about $20.

Smith said they are always looking for new volunteers to help keep OHV trails open and in good shape. Anyone interested in more information can visit or can send an email to

Smith has been off-roading for several decades and says the Tonto National Forest is his favorite area.

“The diversity of terrain, climate, biology, scenery and recreational experience packed into this one forest is amazing and right in our backyard,” he said. “In the Payson area, I really like Pyeatt Draw although I’d have to say that I consider the Sycamore Creek OHV area to be ‘home base.’”

To get a copy of the Payson-area OHV map, visit There, find a link to Avenza Maps. Or, from the Apple app or Google Play stores, download the Avenza Maps app. It costs $1.99 to download the Payson OHV map. The money is used to fund ongoing development of Tonto OHV user maps and other programs.

Contact the editor at