Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rain Day Festival

Rain, Rain,
Go away;
Come again,
April day;
Little Johnny wants to play

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By Diane Forrest

I remember saying this little rhyme alot while I was growing up.  Kids don't like the rain, especially during the summer.  It keeps them from being able to play outside or do other fun activities.  I have a friend who is in Florida now on her vacation at Disney World.  If any of you have ever been to Disney world, you know that it will rain every day.  It usually doesn't last long, but it always happens at the worst time. I’m sure they make a fortune selling those little plastic rain ponchos.

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Most of the country is asking for rain, half of the country is in a drought now.  Last summer, my cousin was married in Texas.  Actually, today is her anniversary.  She was married outside, on a farm, on probably the hottest day of the year, in the middle of a drought. The farm, her husband's family farm, was about an hour from town, so they rented a bus for the guests.  Unfortunately the air conditioner went out, so they all melted.  They didn't want the rain to go away, they were wishing for rain to come.

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In Waynesburg, Pa, they celebrate a rain day festival today.  It started out innocently enough.  Rain Day got its beginning in the Daly & Spraggs Drug Store, located in the center of Waynesburg. Legend has it that one day a farmer was in the drugstore and mentioned to Byron Daly that it would rain the next day, July 29. Mr. Daly asked him how he knew and he replied that it was his birthday and that it always rained on his birthday. He had a journal for several years in which he recorded the weather and always had noted rain on July 29th. Mr. Daly thought this was too sure a thing to let pass, so he started betting salesmen who came into his drugstore that it would rain in Waynesburg on July 29. The bet was usually a new hat, which of course he would win.  This tradition began in 1874, and as of 2011, it has rained 113 years out of 137 years of score keeping.

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In later years, Byron Daly's son, John, continued the tradition of wagering a hat on Rain Day. John was an attorney in Waynesburg, a very gentlemanly individual, who always tipped his hat to the ladies he passed on the street, and spoke with a kind soft voice. Although he had fun with Rain Day, he also took it very seriously. He liked the idea of keeping it as a local phenomenon.
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These days, the town celebrates with an annual festival.  It begins with a pancake breakfast and spends the day with live entertainment, contests and activities for children.  They still continue the tradition of hat betting; only now the duties have been handed over to a commission.  There have been many celebrities who have won hats, some including:
  • Bing Crosby
  • Bob Hope
  • The Three Stooges
  • Arnold Palmer
  • Jay Leno
  • Will Ferrell

In 1983, Willard Scott the weatherman on NBC's Today Show was the bettor who gave Rain Day the most notoriety. Willard, being a weatherman, the phenomenon of Rain Day was of special interest to him. Mr. Scott not only mentioned Waynesburg on Rain Day, but talked about it the day before and the day after. Although it didn't rain for Willard's year, he sent a beautiful Stetson cowboy hat.

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This year, as the country looks at Waynesburg, PA to see how the annual tradition plays out, the rest of the country can do a rain dance to see if perhaps they too can get a refreshing rain shower today.

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