Redbud branch

Rubber duck races, carriage rides, vendors and free redbud saplings. Every year the town of Dayton, Virginia invites people from all over to celebrate their little community in the Redbud Festival. For the past eight years they have put on this festival in April with various activities to make its residents love where they live and to draw people to the historical town.

“The Town of Dayton is widely known for its festivals with its quality of crafts, but mostly the great hospitality of the residents of Dayton,” Shelia Helsley, the event planner for the Dayton Days Festival, said.

The festival will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with various events and activities throughout the day.

“The Redbud festival brings everyone together to have a fun day in our beautiful town.” Mike Logan, of Dayton’s shop The Cottage, said. “The town gives away free redbud saplings which seems to always put a smile on people's faces.”

Some of the day’s events include appraisals of items such as antiques and pottery that you may have, train and pony rides, dog adoptions and a chance to win $100 if you visit four Dayton shops and get them to stamp your guide as a way to support local businesses.

“We think about things that fit within the theme of what we’re trying to do here,” said Shelley Newman, a Dayton town council member and business analyst at JMU. “Which is our motto: discover historic Dayton — small town, hometown, downtown.”

According to Newman, activities such as carriage rides and tours of historic landmarks are planned in order to celebrate the culture of the town.

The festival was first created by local merchants to attract people to the town. Over time, the festival grew so large that the town had to take over the planning. People now come from all over the area for this spring festival, and the merchants come from surrounding states.

According to Logan, the popularity of the festival has grown so much as a result of its attraction through social media, local advertising, and word-of-mouth.

Newman also hopes the Redbud Festival attracts the JMU community to visit its southern neighbors.

“I was a JMU student myself and now I work here at JMU, and I always felt as a JMU student, that I didn’t know about other things going on in the community outside of JMU,” Newman said. “We as Dayton would love to connect with the JMU community better and we hope that JMU students would like to come out and visit our town.”

According to Helsley, the Redbud Festival usually gets around 4,000-5,000 people and takes months of preparation.

“At the end of the day, when the festival’s over, these shops are what make Dayton unique,” Newman said. “So, it’s about all of these other activities, but it’s also about supporting local, shopping local, appreciating the businesses that call Dayton home.”

Shanna Kelly is a freshman media arts and design and Spanish double major. Contact Shanna at

Shanna Kelly is a double major in SMAD (journalism) and Spanish with a double minor in translation and interpretation and honors interdisciplinary studies. In addition to The Breeze, Shanna is also an active member of Kappa Alpha Theta.