It All Began In May 1947
The 2022 Strawberry Festival will mark the 75th time Dayton has celebrated the arrival of springtime and of course the strawberry crops. The festival was originally sponsored by the Dayton Lions Club, in corporation with the Junior Chamber of Commerce, on May 24, 1947, to give the community a chance to work together and enjoy a major civic function. It was, and still is a celebration for the beginning of the strawberry growing season.
The first Strawberry Festival was modest compared to recent ones. O.E. Roller was the first general chairman of the event, and everything was scheduled to take place on one Saturday. Festivities begun with an open house at the Chickamauga Producers, Inc. freezing plant in Dayton. Afterwards, exhibits were on display on the main floor of the Rhea Central High School, and were furnished by the Extension Service of the University of Tennessee out of Knoxville.
The early parades consisted of Queen and commercial floats, and formed at Rhea Central High School at 1:30 pm. The parade was led by visiting bands, including the Rhea Drum and Bugle Corps which left the high school, traveled down Market Street, and ended up at the courthouse in about an hour. On the courthouse lawn, a band concert was offered, after which the entire parade marched again back to the High School. In the evening a strawberry shortcake dinner was offered by the Dayton Lions Club ladies; all you could eat for .50 cents. From seven to eight that night, a program of skits and the crowning of the queen took place on stage in the high school auditorium followed by a square dance in the high school gymnasium, for $1 a couple, culminated the day’s celebration.
As we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Strawberry festival, we are coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic in which the 2019 festival was canceled and the 2020 festival was abbreviated with no parade. Today’s parade event is so large that now the parade entries begin to line up on Hwy 30 shortly before noon. It still travels down Market Street but now ends at the Dayton City School parking lot. Festival events are now a week long. For a complete schedule of this years events please see the Strawberry Festival’s website at the link below.
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