Editor’s note: This is the final installment of our Festival Flashback series, taking a look at the history of city celebrations throughout Utah County during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, we look at Payson’s Golden Onion Days.
“There’s a Superhero in Everyone” is the theme for this year’s annual Golden Onion Days celebration in Payson.
Everyone can be superheroes during this difficult time with the COVID-19 pandemic. That is the idea of the theme, according to Alice Heslop, Golden Onion Days committee member. Many people, including police officers, paramedics, firefighters and others, have continued working hard during the last few months and others are doing what they can to keep each other healthy.
While some of the traditional events have been canceled this year, many activities will still be happening.
“We are still going to celebrate our annual Golden Onion Days and Labor Day – just not quite the way we have in the past,” wrote Mayor Bill Wright in the city’s Golden Onion Days activity booklet. “Our celebration is a wonderful opportunity for families and individuals to renew friendships and enjoy the activities planned to entertain you.”
This year marks the 91st annual Golden Onion Days celebration. The first one was held in 1929 and was started by then-mayor L.D. Stewart. It was originally called the “Onion Harvest and Homecoming.” One purpose of the celebration was to help make Payson an “agriculture district and outstanding in the production of the onion,” according to a history included in the Golden Onion Days activity booklet.
Some of the traditional activities that have been canceled this year due to COVID-19 concerns include a badminton tournament, basketball tournament, children’s carnival, City of Fun Carnival, dance, duck race, Dutch oven contest and the grand parade.
However, many activities will continue. The festivities begin on Friday and run throughout the day with a library used book sale, boutique and food in the park, pickleball tournament, baby contest winners and fireworks, which begin at 9 p.m.
Events will continue throughout the weekend and end on Monday evening. Some of these include a teen and adult talent show, soapbox derby, Payson City’s Biggest Onion Contest, concerts and a car show. The annual 5K and 10K Labor Day races will still be held on Monday. The races begin at 7 a.m. at Payson City Center, 439 W. Utah Ave.
The longest-running event for Golden Onion Days is the annual flower and art show, according to Heslop. This is the 66th year that the show has been held. Participants can bring flowers that they have grown to the Peteetneet School on Sunday from 7-11 a.m. The judging will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors can view the flowers on that day from 2-6 p.m. and on Monday from 12:30-5:30 p.m. Different categories include roses, marigolds, gladiolas, dahlias, zinnias and asters. There also are themes for different arrangements.
“This used to be where ladies would wear fancy hats and gloves,” Heslop said. “We’ve kept the prizes like what they used to be back then.”
The prizes are crystal vases and many are donated in people’s names. For example, a family might donate one in their grandmother’s name, who used to participate in the yearly contest.
“They continue the family traditions this way,” Heslop said.
The art and photography show has similar hours to the flower show. “I can’t believe how many talented artists there are in Payson,” Heslop said.
Of course, the onion contest is always a big draw and was brought back a few years ago as a part of the yearly festivities.
“We did have fields of onions at one time in Payson,” Heslop said.
There are different age categories for the onion contest and each onion is weighed and measured.
For a full list of activities for Golden Onion Days, visit the city’s website.