"The entire Tonto Basin, as well as most of Arizona, was open range. The Rim Country ranchers in the upper Tonto Basin let their cattle roam free, so that cattle belonging to each rancher mixed with those of his neighbors. Each year a general roundup was held with cowboys and ranchers driving the cattle to a common roundup camp where calves were branded with their owner’s brand.
Green Valley (later Payson) became the natural hub of activity for the local cowboys and ranchers. It was just as natural for friendly competition and rivalries to develop among the ranchers and cowboys as to who was handiest with a rope, the most skilled bronc rider, or who had the fastest horse. In this manner, contests were born as an extension of the Green Valley cowboy lifestyle. Cowboys tested skills born of necessity against those of their neighbors’. Soon bets were laid down as to who was the best at a particular skill and the sport of rodeo was born, although it would not be known by name for many year.
"Thus, it could be reasonably argued that there were rodeos held in Payson before it existed as a town site! But, the 1884 Celebration is the one that launched the Payson Rodeo as an annual event, and has been known ever since as the - World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo."
"There could have been other cowboy contests occurring on the range or even in other towns at this time. Evidence of the first cowboy contests were blown away long ago, like campfire smoke and trail dust. Other historians have made their claims as to when their town’s rodeos started and became annual events. For the most part, we have no quarrel with what they say about their own history – but we do care what they say, or do not say about ours!” "For purposes of clarification, the Tonto basin is a watershed bordered by mighty physical barriers and drained primarily by Tonto Creek. It is bounded by theMogollon Rim on the north, the Mazatzal Range on the west and the Sierra Anchas on the east. Before the Roosevelt Dam was built, the southern border was located where Tonto Creek ran into the Salt River Canyon across what is today Roosevelt Lake and eastward to Chub Mountain in the southern Sierra Anchas."
"The Tonto basin ranchers, cowboys, and town folk held their celebration and invited their friends to town. Word of Payson’s annual celebration was passed along by word of mouth. The cowboys and ranchers got the word and came down from the mountains and out of the Tonto valleys bringing their families for the annual event. By 1892, there were eighty-some men at the celebration, largely from the Rim Country, the Tonto Basin, Pleasant Valley, and Globe."