No matter what county you reside in, Greene, Clarke, Darke, Montgomery, or any in between, my guess is you’ve spent some time ‘Nowhere Else But Hara.’
As you may know, the complex shut its doors after lengthy legal, and IRS issues this past August.
Which at the time broke the hearts of many, but no more so than Karen Wampler, the Marketing/PR Director and co-owner.
“With heavy hearts, the Wampler family announces that Hara will be hosting its last event on August 27, 2016. The iconic venue brought sports, concerts, entertainment and special interest shows to the Miami Valley for 60 years, but ultimately could not overcome an internal legal battle that has spanned the last two decades.” Karen sais.
Hara was simply a big piece of all our lives and for generations
In the 1940s, the land where Hara now sits was the Wampler family fruit orchard. In 1943, the Red Barn was built on Wolf Road as a fruit and vegetable stand for Wampler Farms.
Harold Wampler, Sr. and his wife Myrtle enjoyed dancing, so they built a hardwood floor on the loft of the Red Barn and created an exclusive dance venue, the Cedar Loft Club.
Harold soon began to rent out the Red Barn. Demand exceeded supply, so he began a tradition that his sons and their sons would follow; build to meet a demand.
Right across Shiloh Springs Road, he began what is now today’s Hara Complex with the Ballarena was constructed in 1956. Dancing was at the height of its popularity and it wasn’t long before more room was needed. Harold’s two sons, Harold, Jr. and Ralph seized the opportunity and added the Silver Arena in 1959.
Noticing that the Dayton area did not have a place to host the Shrine circus, the Wampler’s responded to a need and built the 5,500 seat Hara Arena in 1964 which ushered in an era of entertainment the Dayton area had never seen before.
The name Hara was taken from the first two letters of Harold and Ralph’s names.
“We’re thankful their birth order wasn’t reversed. Otherwise, we’d be welcoming people to Raha Arena. No Where else but Raha!” said Wampler at the time.
And seemed like if you’ve lived in these parts you have a story or three about the iconic venue.
Bill called it ‘The Hockey Barn of Bedlam’ to Terry who saw ‘The Beach Boys’ to Mellissa experiencing a Bomber’s game also meeting her future husband there.
Now just memories. Over 60 years of concerts, conventions, home and horse shows, plus everything in between.
Well, every cloud has its silver (Arena) lining.
A recent check-in with Karen reveals some good news.
“I’m enjoying my first real holiday in over 30 years that’s not laden with hockey games, truck pulls, and home shows. Our first grand baby arrived on Christmas Eve and I am, according to my son, “out of control”. There’s real time to spend with my parents as they battle their health issues. As difficult as it was to let go of Hara, (I have a plaque reminding me to “Let go or be dragged” sitting on my desk) there is something to be said for having time to focus on the W.O.H. (World Outside Hara).” Karen says.
Thanksgiving weekend was particularly rough on the Wampler’s.
“It was the first time in decades not spent at the National Holiday Gift Show. So many people, exhibitors and guests alike, told us how much they missed it. A few people, who hadn’t heard about the closing, actually showed up for it! After the first of the year, we’re looking at potential sites where we can revive the show. If that goes well, we have similar plans for the Miami Valley Home Show and possibly the Bridal Expo. We’re still in touch with many of our other show promoters helping them transition into their new homes whenever possible.” She says.
Well, how about that, Hara could quite possibly continue in some sort of fashion. Karen remembers my morning TV days ‘going live’ from Hara.
“Remember all those early morning shoots you’d always end by saying Nowhere Else but Hara? We wish the shows could have stayed at Hara for another 65 years, but at least they’ll go on, just Somewhere Else, but not Hara. Not as catchy, but at least parts of Hara live on.”
And in our collective memories too. — Cheers, Buch
Jim Bucher is a local resident and guest columnist.