The water balloon toss debacle probably counts as the Valley Forge moment of Payson’s 2019 celebration — only it happened in Payson’s Green Valley Park, not a frozen East Coast wilderness.

On the other hand, the pie-eating contest was sweet as the victory at Yorktown.

In between Payson raised the flag, sang patriotic songs, ate lots of hot dogs, suffered heat stroke and sunburn, soothed overtaxed grandchildren and overexcited dogs. The whole day served up a little slice of Americana.

For one day of the year, residents celebrate the birth of a country that recognized the rights of the individual over the dictates of a king.

Honor guard during the flag raising 2019 4th of July Green Valley Park

The Honor Guard saluted as the flag rose over Green Valley Park to launch the 2019 4th of July celebrations.

“The Declaration is the birth certificate of our nation,” said retired Marine Col. Bill Sahno as he opened the day with the Color Guard raising the flag at the War Memorial in Green Valley Park.

But that doesn’t mean the day ran perfectly.

Consider the defective water balloons.

Kaprice Bachtell, second in command at the Town of Payson Parks and Recreation Department, had to improvise like George Washington when her staff discovered many of the 2,000 water balloons burst well before the battle.

“We start filling them up at 10 a.m.,” she said, “but we had a problem with the balloons this year — they kept popping.”

Her staff filled the balloons and put them in containers. But when they opened the containers just before the battle, most had broken.

So, Bachtell dropped the age groups and did heats.

Waterballoon toss 2019 4th of July Green Valley Park

Due to “defective water balloons” the town mixed ages for the traditional water balloon toss prompting this father to play with his daughter, which DJ Craig captured. The Payson Golf Course (above) was a popular place for residents to take in the Fourth of July fireworks show (Peter Aleshire photo).

“That way we just got whoever was interested to participate,” she said.

Washington would have appreciated the flexibility under fire. Kind of like crossing the Delaware in the dead of winter in a big storm, only to discover just one of his three forces made it across to attack the Hessian garrison at Trenton. He decided to attack anyway, taking the German mercenaries by surprise and winning a victory that likely saved the revolution.

A sweet victory.

Rose Ellis of Mesa also sought a sweet victory — in the pie-eating contest. She was so proud she took a whipped cream covered selfie with her hubby Dyson.

Rose Ellis pie eating contest 2019 4th of July

Rose Ellis was so proud of her whipped cream face she promptly took a selfie with her husband Dyson after the contest. He said she insisted on re-living a childhood dream of winning a pie-eating contest.

“She was like, ‘I’m doing the pie-eating contest! I won a pie-eating contest when I was a kid,’” he said.

As the two chatted, their son Oliver licked the pie tin clean.

Their youngest Patrick, 2, then started to have a meltdown. They hoped to make it to the fireworks — if he took a nap.

Dawn Tatum just hoped her granddaughter Mya Lopez wouldn’t toss the pie she gulped during the kid’s pie-eating contest.

The town decided to only serve a slice for the contest, but Mya still looked green after gulping down her piece, piled high with whipped cream. Her friends visiting from California seemed to do just fine.

“My granddaughter said, ‘I don’t know about this,’ before starting,” said Tatum. “I told her just to pretend to eat until somebody wins.”

Dawn Tatum and Mya Lopez 2019 4th of July Green Valley Park

Dawn Tatum's granddaughter Mya didn't take her advice to just 'pretend to eat until someone won'. She didn't feel so hot after the contest was over, but Tatum said she insisted on doing the competition.

Others took a more relaxed approach to the day, napping or playing poker, grilling burgers or just talking with family under awnings scattered about the park.

Most just tried to get through the heat of the day for the fireworks display.

You know, kind of like the rag-tag Continental Army — surviving their many defeats to come finally to the thunder of the artillery over the trapped British Army at Yorktown.

Or at least, to win a war against long odds so that 241 years later, children could celebrate their struggle with water balloons and a big old slice of pie.

Contact the reporter at

contact the reporter at: mnelson@payson.com

I cover the Town of Payson, courts, wildfire, business, families, non-profits, the environment and investigative reporting

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