Star-spangled Dayton

The Heritage Festival returns to Carillon Park

By Deon Jefferson

Photo: The fireworks display closes the Heritage Festival

Usually when someone refers to Memorial Day, they mention this hugely popular U.S. Holiday that’s filled with BBQ’s and the official start of summer. Here in Dayton, we celebrate Memorial Day by highlighting more than 200 years of Dayton’s history during the annual Heritage Festival at Carillon Park. For the past four years, visitors from all over the Ohio area have enjoyed a massive celebration that includes food, vintage baseball, trivia games and interaction with other Dayton natives. Of course, what celebration is complete without fireworks? If you are looking for a change of pace this Memorial Day, search no further because the Heritage Festival never disappoints.

Brady Kress, president of Dayton History, recently discussed some of the goals of the organization: “I enjoy the festival. Each year I feel like it gets bigger and better. Each year we get to open the park in hopes of attracting new visitors that normally would not consider coming, I think that’s terrific. I love seeing new and familiar faces.”

This year, the festival will include many exhibits that showcase history in Dayton, Ohio. For instance, the Flood Exhibit that chronicles the tragic flood the Miami Valley experienced in 1913. “My hope is that the flood exhibit will spark conversation as well as educate anyone that visits,” said Kress.

During the festival, visitors will be granted the privilege of viewing more than 30 historical buildings and structures, in addition to participating in fun trivia that the entire family will thoroughly enjoy. If that’s not enough, there will be real-life historical demonstrations that will excite any history buff or theatre guru. The historical demonstration will be accompanied by a wide variety of special events and activities that will spread throughout the entire park.

So what about the kids? There is plenty to do at Carillon Park for smaller children or teens. Throughout the duration of the day the youth will receive a passport upon entering the park. The passports are relatively connected to each building or special exhibit at the park. “Our reasoning for the passports is to engage our younger visitors, it forces the children – as well the parents – to get excited about each exhibit, yet more importantly to learn some history,” Kress said. Another incentive to the passports is that if the child successfully completes one they ultimately get a prize. There will be a “kid’s fun zone,” so that the children can relax and enjoy themselves aside from viewing exhibits, which promises inflatables, crafts, face painting activities, and much more. The charge for the “kid’s fun zone” is $5 per child or $10 for an entire family.

The Heritage Festival has managed to bring back the Clodbusters Base Ball Club, a Dayton-based group who demonstrates their love for the game by playing good old-fashioned historical baseball. The Clodbusters will also allow children and their families the chance of playing baseball, which has always been a standout crowd favorite. Thankfully, the Clodbusters will show patrons the way baseball was played when it was referred to as a “gentleman’s game,” that was a long time ago during the American Civil War, way before the days of Vernon Wells or even Mariano Rivera.

One of the moments that keep the festival in high demand is the live music and entertainment, which is usually a show-stopping highlight for the 65-acre park. This year, the main stage will produce breakout performances from The Good Time Accordian Band, The Wind in the Woods, Carillon Park Concert Band and a special appearance from Todd the Fox. The main event will be none other than the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. The DPO has been headlining the Heritage Festival since its inaugural festival in 2005. As their set closes, fans of the orchestra are always moved by the emotional tribute in honor of all of those who have served our country in the armed forces. During the tribute, Maestro Neal Gittleman invites former or recent individuals who have served in the armed forces to stand while the orchestra serenades them, meanwhile the audience claps with great approval.

So, the day is almost over, the children are well satisfied from all the fun activities, and everybody is ready to leave, then all of sudden you hear a large boom.

That’s right, fireworks. Fireworks are scheduled to start immediately following the performance from the DPO. The entire Deeds Carillon Bell tower near the front entrance will be decorated with lights as the staff of Carillon Park sets off the area’s best fireworks displays. The fireworks normally are a crowd pleaser amongst festival goers as they sit on the lawn and watch all 65 acres become lit up for 15 to 20 minutes. “My favorite part throughout the entire day is when the sun goes down and the fireworks begin to start,” said Kress.

The Heritage Festival takes place Sunday, May 26, with a rain date of Monday, May 27 Admission is $8 for adults to enter and $5 for children. Admission is free. There is a $5 parking fee from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Welcome Stadium along with a complimentary ride on the Wright Flyer Trolley to Carillon Park. 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 Deon Jefferson at

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