By 6 p.m., fans had filled every seat at the Payson Event Center — with an hour yet to go before the start of the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo.
“Standing room only!” was the message late-comers heard as they waited in a long line to buy tickets. Many had to park in the Mazatzal Casino parking lot on the far side of the highway after the event center lot filled up.
Valley visitors jostled with locals — lining up along the railing to watch barrel racers, ropers, mutton busters, bull riders and more.
Those without seats included Mayor Tom Morrissey, town attorney Hector Figueroa and town council members Steve Smith, Jim Ferris and Suzy Tubbs-Avakian.
Ferris and Morrissey said their favorite event was mutton bustin’.
“I just love to watch those kids,” said Ferris.
Tubbs-Avakain prefers a different event.
“I used to barrel race, so that is my favorite event,” she said.
A longtime resident, Tubbs-Avakian said the energy in the stands reminded her of the old days when the town held the rodeo at Rumsey Park.
Not everyone cared about watching the events, though.
Between the stands, a little cowgirl dressed in a long, royal blue gown studded with sequins studiously practiced her roping technique with a sawhorse decked out with horns.
Nearby, a young cowboy preferred to use the stands as monkey bars, climbing up and over everything.
Out by the food vendors, a Payson police officer stopped to make a baby in its mother’s arms giggle when he flicked on and off a flashing red light.
Food vendors could barely keep up with the long lines of people waiting for barbecue, frozen lemonade, cotton candy and kettle corn.
Payson Pro-rodeo Committee member and Star Valley councilor Andy McKinney volunteered for most of the three days of rodeo.
It impressed him that, “The rodeo was very well attended across the board,” but Saturday afternoon impressed him the most. Usually a sparsely attended performance, McKinney said more families than he has seen before braved the heat.
The highlight of the evening came when Wyatt Nez rode a bull for the full eight seconds, then dismounted as if riding a horse.
His score of 89.5 clinched his win at the Payson Rodeo.
The whole three days of rodeo revelry ended with the big dance.
There too, parents brought children and friends danced to country tunes.
Out on the dance floor, everyone jammed in together.
And no one seemed to mind.