Rain Day - Waynesburg's Claim to Fame
July 29th may be just another day to the rest of the world, but to the residents of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, it has a special significance that is passed along from generation to generation.
It all started during the late 1800's at a drugstore located on High Street (the main street in town). An unknown local farmer remarked to William Allison, the pharmacist, that it always seems to rain on July 29th. This comment inspired Allison to keep an annual record of the rainfall on that day. William's brother, Albert, continued recording this mystical event; then, sometime during the 1920's, the record keeping was taken over by the late Byron Daily.
Rain Day would have remained a local phenomenon if it hadn't been for the efforts of the late Waynesburg newsman John O'Hara. He began sending Rain Day stories to other newspapers in the 1930's. Today, newspapers, TV and radio stations from around the world flood the town of Waynesburg with calls every July 29th to learn if it has indeed rained.
For many years, the only observances of Rain Day were the annual hat bet between Byron Daily's son, John and a national or regional celebrity and a brief ceremony on the Courthouse steps. In 1979, the Waynesburg Borough Special Events Commission was created to hold a special celebration on July 29th each year. That same year, the Waynesburg Area Chamber of Commerce held the first annual Miss Rain Day Pageant. In 2003, the Chamber of Commerce created a new non-profit entity, Rain Day Scholarship, Inc. with the sole purpose to plan and execute the pageant. Each year, one talented local teenage girl wins the coveted crown, hundreds of dollars in scholarship savings bonds and the chance to 'reign' over the day's festivities.
Among the activities sponsored by the Special Events Commission on July 29th is a street fair in the heart of town, live entertainment on the courthouse steps, arts and crafts booths, hometown food booths, children's games and assorted other diversions - including an umbrella decorating contest. Best of all, the admission is free! The festivities are silenced each year to pay a moment's tribute to the men of Company K, 2nd Battalion, 110th Infantry - a battalion from Waynesburg that lost men in France during World War I on Rain Day, 1918. Nearly half of the 250 Greene County men were either killed or wounded on that day. As John O'Hara once wrote, "On that Rain Day in 1918, it rained bullets on the men of Company K".
July 29th, Rain Day in Waynesburg, is the only holiday anywhere in the world that is not a success unless it rains! It is just another day to the rest of the world, but to the people of Waynesburg, it is special festivities and memories on Main Street.
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.