Most event organizers don’t want it to rain on the day of their outdoor event. But in Greene County, Pa., organizers of the Rain Day Festival are betting on rain.
Greene County, tucked into the southwest corner of Pennsylvania and nearly four hours from Washington D.C., has a number of summer events that capture classic Americana. Perhaps none is more than the unique than the Rain Day Festival, held in downtown Waynesburg, the county seat.
“It’s a street festival held right near the courthouse square,” said Athena Bowman, who coordinates the event. “The streets are filled with vendors and there’s plenty of entertainment and kids’ games.”
The Rain Day Festival is held yearly on July 29, which, according to town lore, is the day in 1874 that a farmer came into the Daly & Spraggs Drug Store and told proprietor Byron Daly that it would rain. Daly started to place bets with the salesmen who came in. Daly kept up the tradition, placing bets for a new hat that it would rain on July 29.
Daly’s son, John, kept the holiday going, by betting a new hat on Rain Day. John Daly was known for keeping a night vigil, usually in a yellow coat, hat, and umbrella, on the courthouse wall waiting for rain. “He was almost always rewarded for his efforts and would give a gentle smile, put up his umbrella and head for home after the first drips fell,” according to John Owen, who chairs the borough’s special events commission. The stories of these bets were picked up by regional and national papers — helping to spread the word of this unique local tradition.
Daly made hat bets with local notables and those of national fame, including Bob Hope and Johnny Carson.
The tradition of betting hats has stayed throughout the years, Bowman said. Exactly who the borough placed a bet with this year is being kept a surprise.
Along with the potential of playing in the rain, visitors can take time to enjoy a number of musical acts, carnival games for kids, and an umbrella decorating contest. Most of the umbrella decorations, naturally, focus on hats, Bowman said.
“The event goes off, no matter the weather,” she said. “Even though it may rain, it does not hinder people from coming out and celebrating in the street.” (raindayfestival.com)
Hoping for sunshine, too
While Greene County residents are hoping for rain on July 29, they’ve also got their fingers crossed for good weather for the rest of the month.
Pennsylvania is known for its county fairs, with more than 125 community gatherings held throughout the summer and fall in the Keystone State.
Greene County is home to two, the Jacktown Fair and Greene County Fair. Both are classic county fairs, with agriculture at their heart.
The Jacktown Fair confidently bills itself as a must-see event, with its famed slogan: “You Can’t Die Happy Until You’ve Been to the Jacktown Fair.”
The Jacktown and Greene County fairs offer agriculture contests such as animal judging and baking competitions that are ingrained in Pennsylvania’s county fair tradition. At the same time, you’ll find midway adventures, nightly entertainment, tractor pulls, and chainsaw carvings to grab visitors’ attention.
The Warrior Trail provides both the opportunity to stretch your legs and walk through history. The trail, maintained by the Warrior Trail Association, follows a path used for 5,000 years by Native Americans. The modern-day trail is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
The trail starts along the Monongahela River and runs east to west, about 5 miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Blazed with yellow dots, the trail cuts across a 45-mile stretch of southern Greene County. It also extends for another 22 miles into Ohio.
Known for its rural charm, the county has a number of covered bridges, general stores, and quiet back roads that make a perfect retreat from hectic daily lives. The classic Americana festivals and places to hike are icing on a summer cake.
Green Co. Tourism: greenecountytourism.org