A little Greene County festival history


The folks in Greene County certainly know how to throw a party. From Spring to fall, you will find festivals held at various weekends throughout the county, each city has its own special festival, and each is unique.

People come from miles around to enjoy the special food which often reflects the festival — beans, sweet corn, potatoes, popcorn, etc. Vendors enjoy the crowds and we get to see neighbors and friends we don’t often see.

Cedarville has just celebrated Labor Day with a festival. If you do not know why that particular day was chosen, it is in honor of James H. Kyle who was born in February 1854 near the town of Cedarville.

He became a missionary and with his wife went to Utah, Colorado and then South Dakota. Being the new minister in town, he was invited to speak at an Independence Day program. He was not the principal speaker; he was just there to offer a prayer. When the main speaker did not show up, someone asked him, since he was on the stage, if he could make a few comments.

He was pleased to speak to the crowd and his remarks were so well received that the next day, he was asked if he would consider running for public office, particularly the State Senate… He won the election and then some years later, became a United States Senator.

While he was serving in the Senate, he perceived that the working man’s/women’s days were very long, sometimes six days a week, and little or no vacation. He proposed a bill in the Senate which would declare one day a year as a day for all employees to rest. Congress agreed, and so the first Monday of September was set aside as Labor Day. Thus Senator Kyle is recognized as the “Father of Labor Day”.

Soon Xenia will be celebrating the Community Festival with special foods, rides, games and various artisans all gathering in Shawnee Park. A balloon glow and many other activities will take place, bringing hundreds of folks to the park.

Before Community Days, for a short while that fall festival was known as the Bob Evans Festival, and before that Old Fashioned Days.

For a number of years the Xenia Business and Professional Women’s Cub was responsible for the annual Old Fashioned Days festival.

Although the entire club was busy with plans, the majority of the responsibility fell to the Executive Committee: President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Each year the officers “moved up” so that the Vice President would be in overall charge of the next event, and so forth.

Each year those officers were in charge of a particular event such as vendors, parade, rides, advertising, etc. By the time the President took office, she had been responsible for each committee, and therefore served as the General Chairman. .

Some of the downtown merchants prepared for the event by purchasing extra items to be sold at special prices. Others were able to sell seasonable items or things which had not sold well during the summer, price them very reasonably and perhaps clear off their shelves to make room for new merchandise. Shoppers looked forward to the event due to the many bargains offered at sidewalk sales.

Often there would be a costume contest and residents enjoyed dressing in old-fashioned clothes to enjoy the day. A majority of the downtown employees also wore period costumes. Many will remember Russ Remick, owner of Krakoff’s Women’s Store wearing his very old-fashioned bathing suit. The suit was a black and white stripped creation with the legs reaching nearly to the ankles and the sleeves extending to the elbow.

The BPW ladies were easily identified because they wore matching long dresses, sometimes with a bonnet and even hoop skirts. They were seen all over downtown, meeting and greeting visitors.

The streets downtown were blocked from automobile traffic and so vendors could set up tables and booths on the sidewalks and by the curbs. Merchants had the use of the sidewalk in front of their particular store. A wide variety of handmade items were available in addition to the merchandise from the stores. One would not go home hungry; there were plenty of booths selling food.

Churches would distribute invitations and many clubs had booths to either sell merchandise or encourage membership.

Another major event was the Xenia High School Band which would be seen marching in the parade, and then all the band members would be walking around the area selling “Band Aids”. The “Band Aid” consisted of a card printed with the Xenia High School Band logo along with a band aid. There would be a string attached which the donor would prominently display on a shirt or jacket while shopping. If you weren’t wearing one in plain sight, you would certainly be approached by a member of the band to make a donation for one of the clever cards.

South Detroit Street was usually the section reserved for the rides. It was not unusual to have a Ferris wheel along with other smaller rides available for kids of all ages.

No matter where you live, there is always something fun going on in Greene County. Enjoy.

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By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.