AP NEWS

Ole Tyme Days festival rides out storms to success

April 17, 2019

The Dayton Ole Tyme Days festival organizers planned on more carnival rides this year. What they didn’t plan was the ride Mother Nature took them on during Saturday’s events. After a push from the warm Gulf bringing in showers in the morning, a cold front arrived later in the day with cooler temperatures the festival survived it all and will still be able to fund scholarships for students this year.

“The scary weather Saturday morning really fended off a lot of people and vendors who would have been there,” said Wendy Bode, event organizer.

Bode said approximately 60 different booths were set to welcome festival-goers but only about a half of them made it out on Saturday because of the inclement weather.

Early on Saturday the warm front was blowing in from the Gulf, bringing intermittent downpours of rain and scrambling volunteers. Shortly after lunch, the threatening skies and showers forced entertainers under canopies and awnings for a brief time, but the wind and rain had shifted, and the northern cold front forced the temporary closure of some rides. The drop in temperatures and clearing skies tempted those at home to come out and enjoy the festival later in the day.

“When the skies turned so dark with the approaching cold front, we bounced back and forth on our decision to move the pageant inside the fire department building, but it cleared up and turned out just fine,” she said.

Late Sunday night, Bode said she had met with the carnival people, Reed Exposition, to split the proceeds from the weekend and she was in for a surprise.

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” she said. “The carnival did surprisingly well, considering they had to shut down for extended periods of time because of the wind and rain.

By Sunday, the crowds were back and the festival was also on track for a better than expected showing.

Organizers for the festival meet year-round to prepare.

“We take the summer months off, but are back to monthly meetings beginning in September,” Bode said. The meetings accelerate as they near the festival date beginning in January with bi-monthly meetings and eventually meeting every week a month or so out from the festival.

“We have to line up insurance, road closures, permissions from local business owners, outside of planning the festival and lining up volunteers for each component. It just takes time.”

Bode, who had to return to her regular job on Monday morning, said they would have a meeting next week to debrief and take a look at how they could make things better.

“We’ll put a survey up on our website and ask folks to tell us what they liked and didn’t like to help guide us for next year,” she said. “We try to accommodate as much of that as we can.”

Since returning to the downtown area, the festival has begun to grow again.

“It’s still not where we’d like for it to be, but we’re headed in the right direction,” she said.

Her personal phone number is on all the advertising, so she receives the bulk of the calls about the festival and she’s glad she has a phone plan that allows her unlimited calls and texting.

“It’s busy months before and now it will die down,” she said.

This year brought more sponsors than they’ve had in the past and the funds to help pay for upfront costs for running the festival. The city of Dayton also helps with sales tax funds from the hotel/motel funds.

“They also help us with barricades for blocking off the roads and provide the security with Dayton PD,” she said. “We could never do it without them. The cost would be too much otherwise.”

Bode also complimented law enforcement because in all the years she’s been working the festival, she could only recall one arrest at the most.

“You would think that with that many people together there would be some problems, but they’ve been far and few between,” she said.

When the rains did come, it was festival-goers who pitched in to help protect valuable sound equipment and other items that needed to be moved out of the weather.

“The people of Dayton are good people and helpful when there’s a need,” she said.

Bode said this year they had more rides than they have in the past but getting more is a problem because they are virtually out of real estate to put additional rides, she said.

“We had the city-owned lot and then I went back and asked them for a piece of Bryant Street because I needed more space for the larger rides.”

Bode said those rides need a minimum of 15-feet clearance from electrical poles and wires and it takes up a lot of space.

The festival organizer credited the ROTC and the Boy Scouts for their diligence and hard work. ROTC cadets helped with the gates and parking while the Boy Scouts collected the trash. Both groups also had booths at the festival to fundraise.

Numbers on how much the festival raised won’t be available until all the expenses are paid but should be another good year.

“We have a group of great volunteers that I can’t thank enough,” she said. “Some of them were figuring how many years they had actually worked the festival off the ages of their children,” she smiled.

They are always looking for volunteers to help with the festival.

Now that the 26th year is in the books, Bode’s mind is already running considering changes and additions for next year. Mother Nature will always be on their mind, but she’s hoping for a more favorable outcome next year.

dtaylor@hcnonline.com