More than 800 to a 1,000 people came every hour to party with food and drink, but they ended up dancing in the rain before the town pulled the plug on the 2019 Food Truck Festival three hours early.
The storm watch started at 4 p.m., said Courtney Spawn, the parks and recreation director for the Town of Payson.
“Any outdoor event threatened by lightning within 10 miles, we have to shut it down due to safety,” she said.
If lightning gets within 10 miles of a softball tournament, the town delays the game by at least half an hour to see which way the storm will move. The town continues to delay the start, until the storm moves away or it just gets too late.
Angie Prock had just ordered her lobster from the Cousin’s Maine Lobster Truck around 4 p.m. when the town told the vendors to stop selling to the crowd.
“People in line who hadn’t ordered got mad,” she said. “Then they took orders again.”
By 5 p.m., bounce houses lay deflated on the grass, the band listlessly wandered the stage and nervous town staff watched black clouds march toward Green Valley Park. Most of the crowd moved under the larger-than-ever beer and wine garden canopy.
Spawn commented, “We told them to all take cover — and well — they’re still here saying, ‘I just want to have fun!’”
Mike and Janet Brandt, who manned the entrance to the beer garden said, “at least we’re down low.”
Mike retired from the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department a few years ago, but still spearheads the community’s Firewise program. Janet looked up at the canopy they sat under and said, “This is just a huge lightning rod.”
Inside the tent, James Bruzzi of Bruzzi Vineyard reported he had better than ever success at this Food Truck Festival.
“Two hours in, I had to send for another delivery from Young,” he said.
His winery is off of Highway 288 in Young — hard to miss with its iconic windmill.
Next door, That Brewery staff reported they had fabulous success as well. That Brewery is located at the southern entrance to Pine.
Meanwhile, the food trucks still selling quietly said, “We have to make money.”
Town Councilor Chris Higgins had sympathy for the vendors.
“It is disappointing when you come and can’t sell. The food trucks want to be out here,” he said. “But we can’t be encouraging people to put themselves in danger.”
By 6 p.m. the storm decided to unleash its fury right over Green Valley Park. Instead of the band using the microphone, town staff announced the 2019 Food Truck Festival officially over.
Everybody took it in stride, the event having taken on the overtones of a hurricane party.
Especially in the beer tent.