By Jacqui Boyle
DAYTON, Ohio —
In honor of the Dayton Holiday Festival’s 40th year of celebrating the season, we bring you facts about the event throughout the years, provided by the Downtown Dayton Partnership, an event sponsor.
- The first festival in 1972 was called “The One World of Christmas.” The name of the event was changed to the Dayton Holiday Festival the following year to reflect its celebration of the traditions of all faiths.
- In 1976, attendees could sign the “world’s largest greeting card.”
- In the late 1970s, noontime fashion shows called “Glamour Sessions” were held during the festival, featuring clothes from downtown department stores. The sessions also provided women’s makeovers, and hairstyle and makeup tips.
- The first tree-lighting ceremony was held in 1978. It featured a garland of ornaments made by local children, who also could put their ornaments on the tree the day of the ceremony.
- Starting in the late 1970s and running through the 1980s, several popular attractions were set up on Courthouse Square as part of the Dayton Holiday Festival. Those included Jeremi the Talking Tree, Winnie the Pooh, Grandma’s Goody Grove, Santa’s Workshop, Katy the Karousel, Fantasy Forest and a train. In addition, Decemberfest (later known as the Children’s Celebration) was held at the Dayton Convention Center and featured rides, arts and crafts, and games.
- In its previous life, the Dayton Holiday Festival train was used by General Motors to give tours of the Frigidaire plant. Children had free three-minute rides on its red tile track on Courthouse Square. The train was known as the Silver Streak, Frigidaire Flyer and Festival Flyer.
- A Student Paint-On, a project led by Dayton Daily News columnist Dale Huffman, was part of the Dayton Holiday Festival for several years from the early 1980s to early 1990s. Students would submit designs, and winning ones would be painted on downtown windows or displayed in storefronts.
- Dan Rotterman of Washington Twp. spent a number of years in the early- to mid-1980s creating a hand-crafted gingerbread village for the Dayton Holiday Festival. He came to be known as “Gingerbread Dan” for his creations.
- In 1989, the Children’s Parade included large helium balloons similar to those in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
- In the 1990s, the Dayton Holiday Festival included Holly Days at the Arcade, which featured shopping and entertainment.
- In 2008, the holiday tree on Courthouse Square was adorned with colored, rather than white, lights. Also, the Children’s Parade was moved to a nighttime parade following the tree-lighting ceremony and renamed the Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights. Both of these new Dayton Holiday Festival traditions remain today.