By JILLIAN LYNCH
Daily News-Record 6/4/21
Though the redbuds may have bloomed in mid-April, Dayton is opening up for the 11th annual Redbud Festival on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The event, known for handing out free redbud saplings, is usually held in April and was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We started planning for this year’s festival without knowing if we would be able to pull it off,” said Meggie Roche, Dayton’s economic development coordinator.
The historic town in Rockingham County is known not only for the Redbud Festival, but also for Dayton Days, which draws crowds of over 20,000 people to the tiny town.
The Redbud Festival will be held in downtown on College Street and will include 60- plus vendors, food trucks, beer from Brothers Craft Brewing and live performances by Doug Turner, Brent Funkhouser and Dwight Martin.
Dove Park, located on College Street, will be the “entertainment hub” for the event, Roche said. Food trucks, music and beer will all be available at the park, as well as two public bathrooms.
“I love spring and I like the Redbud Festival because it’s not as big as Dayton Days,” said Penny Imeson, executive director of Rocktown History, also known as the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society. “This event is a little bit newer and has more of a small- town feel.”
Visitors to the Dayton Redbud Festival can expect the return of some favorite annual events, including free horse-drawn carriage rides through town from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. provided by Classic Carriages and the Rubber Ducky race with prizes at Cooks Creek beginning at 1 p. m.
Another annual favorite is the antique car “cruise-in” organized by Greg Riddle, where antique car owners are invited to park outside of the Rocktown History building and show off their vehicles. The cruise- in alone usually draws roughly 30 vehicles.
“We’re hoping some people will bring in some older cars,” Riddle said. “Anyone can bring their car. You don’t have to RSVP.” Riddle says anyone who wants to participate can register on-site and receive a placard to put their vehicle information on for spectators.
Parking will be available at Wilbur Pence Middle School, which is within walking distance of the festival, and there will also be a golf-
cart shuttle available from the school. Additional parking will be available at Koogler field.
Before the pandemic, the festival typically drew around 4,000 people to Dayton.
“It’ll be busy. We have a lot of events planned, but everything is coming together,” Roche said. “We’re excited for a busy but positive environment.”
Roche said the festival will have more hand-washing stations and portable bathrooms than usual.
The event will reflect Gov. Ralph Northam’s current COVID-19 recommendations, meaning masks will not be required for the outdoor parts of the event and there will be no capacity or distancing measures in place.
Dayton’s downtown shops and restaurants will be open for visitors, as well as the Dayton Market.
The rain date for the festival is June 12.