Story by John Owen, Chairman Special Events Commission, (1979-2005)
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.
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.
John Daly was the Rain Day Prophet, who kept the tradition alive that was started by his father Byron, when he bet a hat that it would rain on Rain Day. In keeping up the night vigil (usually in a yellow slicker, hat & umbrella) sitting on the courthouse wall waiting for the first drop of rain to fall. 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.
John Daly had won hats from such notables as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Johnny Carson, Cassius Clay and Arnold Palmer just to name a few. He also would bet local TV personalities from the Pittsburgh Area. In 1967, he bet Del Miller, who owned the Meadows Race Track in Washington, PA. That year, not only did Mr. Miller give John Daly a hat, he gave him a complete set of racing silks.
John Daly kept a box under his bed of the hats he had collected over the years. Many years ago, a non-profit talked Mr. Daly into donating his hat collection for a fund- raising auction. The hats were sold to the highest bidders! Special Events Commission has tried several times to determine the purchasers of the memorabilia unfortunately, to no avail, and none of the hats have never been recovered.
In more recent years, the Special Events Commission has won hats from people like Jay Leno, Fran Drescher, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Troy Aikman, Mr. Rogers and Mr. McFeely, The Dixie Chicks and Chubby Checker. Harry Anderson, star of TV's Night Court, was the unsuspecting bettor in 1988; that year it didn't rain, so the commission sent Harry a hat. The hat appeared on the bookshelves behind his desk on the set for several episodes next to his armadillo.
Makes our Annual Rain Day Festival?
It's the Special Events Commission, which was formed in 1979 as an offshoot of Waynesburg Borough. The Commission is composed of nine members.
In the early days the celebration was varied; one year the main street might be closed with a carnival setup through the center of town, complete with a ferris wheel, carousel, games and food. The next year there might not be more than a mention of Rain Day in the local newspapers. The Special Events Commission was to bring continuity to the event and has brought both national and international fame to Waynesburg. In 1979, an annual street festival that continues to this day was born.
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 us a beautiful Stetson cowboy hat.
In 1992, the commission bet the town of Niceville, Florida. A resident there was a former Waynesburgian, who thought that Niceville and Waynesburg were perfect opposites. Of course, Waynesburg won a hat from the Florida town.