WILLIAMS, Ariz. — On Aug. 31, the Bill Williams Mountain Men had the flames roaring and the burgers and dogs sizzling as they fired off the Labor Day weekend with an old school fundraiser.
The fundraising event/raffle, held by the Mountain Men and hosted by The World Famous Sultana, was the organization’s first attempt in reestablishing their dwindling presence in the quaint mountain town that founded it.
The Bill Williams Mountain Men of Williams, was formed in 1953 by a group of local residents to support and represent the city of Williams and its surrounding communities, as well as the state of Arizona. The Mountain Men would ride in countless state-wide parades over the years and soared to the national level in 1981 when they presented newly-elected U.S. president Ronald Reagan with a 16-inch copy of the eight-foot bronze statue of “Old Bill Williams” on his inauguration. While their buckskins, black powder rifles and galloping steeds captivated the crowds, the primary objective of the organization was to help those who have been bucked off get back in the saddle.
“The whole mission of the Bill Williams Mountain Men is to generate help for people in the communities that need it,” said Vice President Ken Taylor of Glendale, Arizona. “If somebody in Williams loses everything they have in a fire and we can financially help them get back on their feet, then we’ll make it happen.”
Over the past several decades, the Mountain Men have raised money to sponsor scholarships, provide donations to charities and non-profit organizations and purchase eye glasses and wheelchairs for those who needed them.
Unfortunately, the last few years have threatened to push the once thriving institution into the forgotten chapters of the Williams memoirs with empty saddlebags and a legend that was slowly drifting into myth. However, a half dozen dedicated men of the 20 member organization strapped on their skins, oiled up a rifle and recently returned to the old watering-hole where it all began, the Sultana, with the determination to blaze a new trail into the future.
“We’re in the mode of rebuilding and getting more active within the Williams community,” said President David Zovod of Prescott Valley, Arizona. “Williams is the heart of the organization, and for a number of years our presence and local membership has deteriorated; we want to let the community know that we’re still here, still active and still part of it.”
Despite their recent membership struggles, the Mountain Men took to the streets of Williams with a fist full of raffle tickets, and in a stampede of enthusiasm and purpose stoked up some flickering embers that had almost died out.
Organizers said they realize the journey ahead is going to be a long one, but hope with the support from the city council, local residents and businesses it will be a quick one.
More information on the Mountain Men is available from David Zovod at (928) 710-1591 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.