Country music star Chase Bryant wows crowd
By Gualterio Casias
MORENCI – The ages, shapes, and sizes of the thousands attending the Freeport McMoran annual Company Picnic on Oct. 14 covered the entire spectrum. There were babes in arms or strollers and those with several years of retirement under their belts.
The fact that every bit of parking space was taken up in the Morenci Plaza testified to the fact it was a very large crowd that attended the event.
There was a variety of entertainment that included rides for children and excellent music provided by the Nashville-based group Savannah Jack during much of the afternoon. The big show was Saturday night headlined by country music star Chase Bryant. He had the crowd dancing and jumping up and down as well as people in the crowd singing along with him on certain songs.
Many rushed to a booth where they bought T-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with the singer’s name. Had the concert been held in the Morenci High School gymnasium, it would have undoubtedly been a packed house. Many youngsters were dancing near the front of the stage while mamas and papas with babies in strollers tapped or bounded on their feet to the rhythm of the music.
One can imagine the coyotes, bighorn sheep and mountain lions that live around Morenci may have wondered what all the noise and the people were all about.
The picnic provided an opportunity for people who had not seen each other recently, or perhaps a very long time, to visit and exchange information about what they and their families are doing now. Among them were Julio Tavison and Emilio Rojas. Both retired when the Morenci mine was owned and operated by the Phelps Dodge Corp. which sold the mine to FMI in 2007.
FMI is the world’s largest publicly traded copper company. It is also a global mining giant. The Morenci facility is the largest operating open pit copper mine in North America.
Rojas, who is in his 80s, and wife Josephine attended the picnic with at least three generations of the family represented. Tavison, 91, and Rojas enjoyed some time visiting and catching up on what each has been doing.
Tavison, after retirement, led groups of people on mine tours. That is how he met wife Kathlene. She said she had been divorced for 20 years and was living in Olympia, Wash., and was visiting Arizona when she decided to visit the Morenci mine.
“I swore that I would never remarry,” she said. “But then I went on that tour and met that wonderful man,” nodding her head toward Tavison. “Believe it or not, 10 days later that tour guide and I got married.”
Julio served on the Clifton Town Council in the 1960s and was a strong backer of the Clifton Hill Climb, an auto race that was revived three years ago. The Rojas family is highly thought of in Clifton.
Morenci Community Center Director Steve Richardson appropriately wore a yellow T-shirt. Throughout the day and night, he was as busy as the proverbial bee. He was at the center of organizing the annual picnic. No matter how busy or stressed he may have been, he always wore a smile.
There were also many, many smiles among picnic participants. Everything was free. that included the food at various vendor stands and beverages provided by the local Pepsi distributor. There were long lines leading to the Morenci Club where entire pizzas were given away. Some folks walked away with as many as two or three of the pies.
Greenlee County Sheriff’s deputies were on hand in the event of any problems, but none arose. A reporter briefly spoke with two deputies as night fell. One of them said a factor in the picnic being a peaceful event is that no alcohol was served nor was any allowed on the grounds.