Dave Hall Plaza thrives (as it always has) with Dayton’s Reggae Fest
By Matt Clevenger
photo: Seefari jams at 5 p.m. at Dayton Reggae Festival Sept. 4; photos: Lamonte Hall
A downtown tradition for almost 30 years, the Dayton Reggae Festival returns, bringing a day of fun and live reggae music to the corner of Fourth and Jefferson Streets.
One of the city’s most popular downtown music events, the festival features a wide variety of reggae acts ranging from roots reggae to dancehall and dub. WYSO’s Niki Dakota will host the event, and Yellow Springs artist Jonny Dread will kick things off at 1 p.m. followed by Johnny Payne and the True Believers (Cincinnati), The One Love Reggae Band (Detroit), Demolition Squad (Dayton), Seefari (Wilberforce, Ohio), and the All-Star Reggae Jam, which will also include a reunion of the reggae band Scales of Justice.
As always, admission will be free, thanks to sponsorships by the city and other local businesses and organizations. “The festival is free to everyone,” says Lamonte Hall, program coordinator for the city of Dayton’s Parks and Recreation Department. “Free to the family is what I like to call it.”
Food and merchandise vendors will also be on site, offering a wide variety of festival fare.
“We’ll have food and merchandise vendors,” Hall says. “We’ll have Heidelberg Distributing and a special selection of beers with about five on tap. We normally try to do something nice and give everybody an IPA and some domestics, and then we try to get a couple of craft beers in there, as well. Especially being the reggae festival, they have some special beers that are good for that festival.
“We do have some housekeeping rules,” he says. “We ask that people don’t bring outside food or drinks. No tents, coolers or pets, but we encourage people to bring a lawn chair or blanket.”
As in previous years, the festival will feature two separate stages, allowing artists to perform with fewer interruptions between sets. “We still utilize the two–stage set-up,” Hall says. “That allows us to have bands play back to back, with shorter interruptions for announcements.”
The festival usually draws an estimated 3,000 visitors to Dave Hall Plaza. “Interest in the Reggae Festival is big,” Hall says. “The festival is definitely growing.
“It is a family-friendly event,” he adds. “When we plan the event, we plan it with families in mind.”
The festival has been running for 29 years, and first got started as part of the popular summer concert series created by well-known Dayton journalist Jim Nichols, who passed away in 2008.
“Jim Nichols started the summer music series over 30 years ago,” Hall says. “He loved Dayton talent, and he loved downtown Dayton. He wanted to showcase downtown and also Dayton talent, so he put together the Dayton music festivals, where he would get local talent to come downtown to play and have people from the city and surrounding communities come down there to enjoy that talent. That’s how it actually started. It started with the Dayton Jazz Festival, and then out of the Jazz Festival grew the summer music series, which is now the Jazz, Blues, Rock, and Reggae Festivals.”
Like all of the city’s free music festivals, the Reggae Festival is made possible through support from local businesses and organizations. This year’s sponsors include the city of Dayton and the Downtown Dayton Partnership, as well as local businesses.
“It is a sponsored event,” Hall says. “The city of Dayton puts it on, and parks and recreation plans the event for the city. Heidelberg is our distributor, and we’ve got Martin Romie, talent buyer, who helps to plan our talent for the event. The Downtown Dayton Partnership supports the event, and the Crown Plaza is a sponsor.
“What’s cool about this festival,” Hall says, “is that reggae has its own crowd and its own following, just like all other genres. But they are a special group; they just enjoy having fun. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or shining, they’re going to enjoy themselves.
“If it’s hot, they’re still going to enjoy themselves,” he continues, “and that’s just what you see. The difference between the reggae festival and a lot of other festivals is that people are so free and enjoy it so much that they don’t let any conditions stop them.”
The 29th annual Dayton Reggae Festival runs from 1 – 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4 at Dave Hall Plaza on the corner of Fourth and Jefferson Streets in downtown Dayton. Admission is free. For more information, please visit cityofdayton.org.
Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger atMattClevenger@DaytonCityPaper.com.