Dayton Heritage Festival

The crowd on the lawn during 2010's Dayton Heritage Festival. The crowd on the lawn during 2010's Dayton Heritage Festival.

Bringing history, legacy and fun to Carillon Park

By Tim Walker

The crowd on the lawn during 2010's Dayton Heritage Festival.

Memorial Day weekend is almost upon us and if you’ve been searching for a fun, local event – something that is a bit out of the ordinary, but is guaranteed to leave you and your family smiling and satisfied without depleting your bank account – look no further than your own backyard. The Dayton Heritage Festival at Carillon Park, Sunday, May 29 might be exactly what you’re looking for.

A celebration of over 200 years of our area’s rich history, complete with food, fireworks, a Dixieland jazz band, trains, a barbershop quartet, a vintage baseball game and a free patriotic concert by the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra (DPO), the Dayton Heritage Festival promises to be an exciting day to remember for everyone in attendance.

Elise Hafenbrack, director of community development for the Dayton History organization, spoke to the Dayton City Paper last week and shared some of the history of the event.

“The Dayton Philharmonic’s May performance at the park had been going on for many years, and we had the Philharmonic concert on one weekend and another festival that took place on the following weekend,” she said. “We decided, ‘Why not make it one great, big day and combine the two?’ So we came up with the Dayton Heritage Festival and this is actually our third year for this combined event.

“It’s really an amazing day,” she continued. “The park opens at 11 a.m.

Normally, there’s an admission charge of $8 for adults and $5 for children to enter Carillon Park, but this day, the park is open and there’s no admission charge. We do have a $5 parking fee and that’s for a whole carload of folks.”

Fun (and history) for all
The festival is scheduled for Sunday, May 29, with an alternate day of Monday, May 30 set aside in case of inclement weather. Event parking will be available at nearby Welcome Stadium, with free shuttles to and from Carillon Park. All of the park’s historical structures will be open during the Heritage Festival from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and there will be a Kid’s Zone open until 7 p.m. with crafts, inflatables and face painting. In addition, Time Warner Cable, one of the main sponsors for the event, will be featuring their “Connect a Million Minds” Passport program, which, as its pledge says, is designed to “inspire today’s young minds to become tomorrow’s problem solvers by introducing them to fun and exciting after-school opportunities that spark a lifelong exploration of science, technology, engineering and math.”

As Hafenbrack explained, “Time Warner will be having their ‘CaMM’ passport program operating that day. It’s a program in which every child gets a ‘passport’ when they come in to the festival. As they go to the different historical structures they solve little problems – which are easy to do – and as they solve the problems, they get their passports stamped. Then, when they hand their stamped passports back in at the end of the day, they get a prize. The program encourages the children to visit the buildings and learn things about our heritage.”

The Heritage Festival is not only for the young, but also for the young at heart. If you’re a history buff, you’ve hit the jackpot by coming to the festival. “The Festival starts at 11 a.m. and it’s a great, patriotic, fun, family day,” Hafenbrack continued. “We have 65 acres here at Carillon Park and we have 30 buildings and historical structures that will be open. We’ll have custom interpreters that will be doing candle dipping, and weaving and making the little whirly-birds like the Wright Brothers used. There will be all kind of activities all throughout the park, which is really fun for everyone to see. We’ll have a strolling barbershop quartet that will be ambling around the park singing songs. We have Dave Greer and the Classic Jazz Stompers Dixieland Band which will be playing from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.”

The Carillon Park Rail and Steam Society will be on hand setting up train rides for patrons of the festival. The group builds, operates and promotes a small-scale railroad in the Carillon Historical Park, covering the grounds in a whole new way for kids (and adults) to enjoy.
“…There are a lot of adults who ride the trains along with their little ones,” said Hafenbrack. “It’s fun for young and old alike. In fact, I think some adults try to find a kid to bring so they have an excuse to ride the trains themselves. The trains are so popular and they’re a huge draw for the park. The rides will be going on throughout the day.”

As if all of those events aren’t enough, there will be a vintage baseball demonstration by the Clodbusters Base Ball Club, a Dayton-based group who showcase their talent for playing historical baseball, re-enacting the way the games were played during the days of the American Civil War.
“The Clodbusters will be having demonstrations throughout the day,” Hafenbrack said. “The kids can get in there and play with them. It was what they called a ‘gentleman’s game’ in those days. They didn’t use gloves, and there was no cussing, no swearing. That’s a fun little aspect of it all, too. It’s really a lot of fun.”
The festival will offer a wide variety of food, including several Ameri-cana classics.
“Adult beverages and regular beverages, too,” Hafenbrack added.

A festival of music
The festival will feature live entertainment all day:

  • The Classic Jazz Stompers, 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • The Day Tones – a strolling barbershop quartet, 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Special performance by the Carillon Park Concert Band, 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • Feature performance by the DPO, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

As the closing featured performance, the DPO will be providing a free concert on the lawn at Carillon Park. They rehearse from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., sometimes for a crowd.

“It’s funny, people come to watch and listen to the rehearsal as well as the concert,” Hafenbrack said. “The orchestra really have a great following and the people come early … they’ll put their blankets and their chairs down on the town green and, if they have a good spot, they’ll stay for the entire rehearsal and then wait for the actual performance.”

One of the most memorable and touching moments of the DPO concert every year is their tribute to the armed forces. Maestro Neal Gittleman will call out each branch of the military and members of the audience who served in that branch are asked to rise and be honored.

My dad’s in the Army and it brings a tear to my eye when he’s standing and everyone is clapping for him and all of the others in the U.S. armed forces.”
Another very “Dayton” moment of the concert is the flyover by the Wright Flyer at the very beginning of the concert. It will also fly over the crowd during DPO’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” The performance will also feature a nearby cannon going off at the appropriate times during the piece.
According to the event program, the DPO’s performance will open with “The Star Spangled Banner” and include Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” a selection of Civil War-era band music, Robert Wendel’s “Fanfare for Freedom” and several other selections in addition to the aforementioned “1812 Overture” and the armed forces salute.

Hafenbrack continued, “Another really fun component is that we have this group of kids called the Carillon Park Concert Band (they used to be called the NCR Band) and it’s comprised of 100 8th through 12th graders from 16 different school districts. They audition to be a part of this band, and they have the honor of appearing right before the DPO. They’ll be giving a half-hour performance, and they are thrilled to no end because they’re the opening act for the Philharmonic. What 8th grader gets to say that?”

Grand finale
Even after all that, the Festival isn’t over. Following the DPO performance, the staff at Carillon Park illuminates the Deeds Carillon bell town near the entrance of the property and sets off fireworks from the top of the tower and the surrounding areas of the park for a giant, grand finale fireworks show.
“It’s a 15- to 20-minute show and it’s just magnificent,” said Hafenbrack. “[The tower] is 151 feet tall … it’s very impressive. There’s also another side area, a part on the levy where they shoot off the larger [fireworks]. So you have some bangs from the top of the bell tower, along with some booms from the other side. It’ll be very exciting and very, very pretty.”

Dayton History, the organization behind the Dayton Heritage Festival, is Montgomery County’s official historical organization. They are a private, non-profit group dedicated to education and protecting and preserving the heritage and history of the City of Dayton. They were formed when the Montgomery County Historical Society and Carillon Park merged several years ago. They own and manage Carillon Park and, as part of a partnership with the Wright Family Foundation, they also conduct tours of Hawthorn Hill, the Oakwood mansion that was the home of Orville Wright and his family. Other local landmarks Dayton History is heavily involved with include Patterson Homestead, the Old Courthouse and Memorial Hall.

For more information on the Dayton Heritage Festival and the Dayton History organization, visit, or contact Dayton History at (937) 293-2841.

Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at

Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at

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