From an “Oktoberfest,” to more murals, a pumpkin patch, historical gunfight re-enactments to a winter wonderland festival — these are just some of the ideas thrown around at the most recent Main Street Merchants Guild meeting.

Once quiet, poorly attended affairs, the most recent meeting quickly took off with Mayor Tom Morrissey in attendance along with Trevor Fleetham and Bobby Davis from the town, along with a group of merchants and Main Street residents.

Mary Hansen, owner of the Oxbow Saloon, held the floor for most of the meeting. She encouraged business owners to get more involved in projects, including several upcoming events.

Main Street Days, a festival originally proposed for September has been moved to October and renamed “Oktoberfest.”

Hansen said she has received all the permits needed to host Oktoberfest from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5 and Saturday, Oct. 12.

“Every single thing I have requested has been approved,” said Hansen. “If people say the town never approves anything that’s not true.”

Hansen said they have waited years for the town to redevelop Main Street, but it’s up to the local businesses to help improve the street now.

“We all need to do something to help ourselves,” she said, “instead of waiting for someone to come in with $2 million to $4 million for a grand project. That isn’t going to happen.”

“The town belongs to you — the people in this town,” said Morrissey. “Until recently, we’ve had the culture of Dr. No. There’s been negativity mainly because of the economic downturn. That is done — gone. As long as I am mayor, things are going to be positive. We’ll bend over backwards for the business community. Forget about the old days, you’ll have our support. You deserve it — we work for you. When you bring something don’t be timid about it.”

The group discussed vendor permits for Oktoberfest and closing Main Street off for the event. A merchant proposed letting local vendors in free and charging out-of-town vendors $25 to cover their permit. Organizers said they would screen outside vendors to avoid competition with locals.

“The Town of Payson and Payson fire chief have agreed to close Main Street for the event,” said Hansen. “The fire chief said it would cause only a 45-second delay.”

Hansen said if property owners wanted to have vendors on their property to have them sign a permit to avoid liability. She said the event will have an Old West theme complete with gunfights, historical re-enactments and skits.

“We need to have stuff that reflects on our history,” said Hansen. “It doesn’t have to cost a million dollars. We need to let people know who Gary Hardt was, for example, and why there is a Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo. People come here from out of town and have no idea.”

Hansen said the fire department turned down hayrides because of the red flag days, but she plans to plant a pumpkin patch behind the Oxbow and run a small train.

The group wants to kick off Oktoberfest with the Sawmill whistle.

Minette Hart, president of the Main Street Merchants Guild, has been coordinating with the Sawmill Theatres complex and whistle owner, Gordon Whiting, for several months to get the whistle operational again.

Halloween

The group later discussed the town’s decision to move Trunk or Treat to Green Valley Park.

“Taking Trunk or Treat off Main Street hurt the businesses,” said Hansen. “We’d like to coordinate with the Town of Payson on Trunk or Treat, but if we have to, we’ll do our own event.”

“I think it should be returned to Main Street,” said Davis, adding he intends to talk to Morrissey and Town Manager LaRon Garrett.

Attracting new businesses

An audience member said, “We need to attract businesses to Main Street. I have a radical suggestion. Eliminate their property taxes for three years if they have a retail business. Retail businesses pay sales tax. Give them some incentive to move there.”

Chuck Proudfoot, vice president of the Main Street Merchants Guild said, “You cannot do tax increment financing. The state of Arizona outlawed it. The town can’t just forgive taxes.”

Getting the word out

“Not once has Historic Main Street been included in Adventure Payson,” said Hansen. “The town could support us by adding Main Street activities on their printed calendar and website.”

“They’re working on those things six to eight months in advance,” said Davis. “Contact Courtney (Spawn), let them know, remind them to put Historic Main Street on the map.”

Other events and projects:

Winter Wonderland

An idea for a winter wonderland to take place one week prior to the Electric Light Parade was introduced.

Murals

Hart and Elizabeth Fowler plan to work on getting grants to paint historically-themed murals. A large mural on the outside of the Sawmill Theatres is scheduled for October.

Shingles

Hansen introduced the idea of each business paying a one-time fee of $300 for an eight-feet long shingle lit by solar carriage lights. The shingles would identify and advertise the businesses and conform to Town of Payson required colors — natural with yellow, white or forest green.

Benches

Maia Crespin, with the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, will no longer be coordinating the benches along Main Street. From now on, any business who wishes to install a bench with a plaque/nameplate will pay the town a one-time fee of $25 and their bench will be a permanent fixture.

Planters

Businesses are encouraged to purchase a whiskey barrel and plant flowers in it as part of the Main Street beautification plan.

“I’m excited to see so many people here,” said Davis. “This is our town. We work for you like the mayor says. The stronger the business groups are the more effective they are. I love what I’m hearing.”

The Main Street Merchants Guild meetings have been changed to the first Monday of the month at 5:15 p.m. at Community Presbyterian Church, 800 W. Main St.

Digital Media Mgr/Staff Reporter/Photographer

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