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Waynesburg keeping an eye on the skies

| Sunday, July 23, 2006

Waynesburg is hoping it will rain Saturday.

Residents aren't worried about drought conditions and crops -- it's Rain Day in the borough.

The celebration started after a Waynesburg pharmacist noted 132 years ago that on July 29 it always seemed to rain.

It has rained in the borough 98 out of 131 times on the date, and the propensity for precipitation is a genuine phenomenon.

Waynesburg went through a bit of a dry spell recently with no rain recorded on July 29 in 2003 and 2004.

Part of the tradition of Rain Day is to bet a hat with a local luminary or a national celebrity, such as the late Johnny Carson and Jack Benny, on whether it would rain.

Two years ago, Waynesburg had to 'fess up and send a hat to comedian Will Ferrell.

Last year, Donald Trump lost the wager and his hat by a few drops.

"It was just an isolated sprinkle," said Melody Longstreth, the executive director of the Waynesburg Chamber of Commerce, but that was plenty for her.

Longstreth said she definitely "doesn't want to see a downpour," particularly on a Saturday when all the Rain Day activities promise to draw a crowd of both residents and visitors downtown.

There are "two different schools of thought" on what's the best rain for Rain Day, Longstreth said.

She said the town is split between those who favor a sprinkle early in the morning and those who enjoy a light rain at about 2:30 p.m. when the festival is at its height.

"It's cool to hear the cheer," she said.

The hat bet this year is with Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

Although she helps with the activities, Longstreth isn't the chief rainmaker. An official borough commission is in charge.

Other activities, in addition to waiting for the rain to fall, are concerts by bands on two stages and Rain Day competitions, including two perennial favorites, the umbrella decorating and Baby Rain Day contests.

A Miss Rain Day pageant is scheduled for this evening.

New to the festivities this year is the "husband hollering contest."

Longstreth said wives can approach the contest with anything from a soft call to a shrill shout, as long as it isn't obscene.

A somber moment of silence will be observed at 6 p.m. for National Guard Company K, a former Waynesburg unit, which was decimated in a July 29 battle during World War I.

Members of the current National Guard Company C, from the Waynesburg Armory -- many of whom who have recently returned from service in Iraq -- also will be recognized.

Rain Day events

The schedule includes:

11:30 a.m.: Umbrella Decorating Contest

Noon: Battle of the Bands: Justin Walters Band

12:30 p.m.: Battle of the Bands: Wicked Spliff

1 p.m.: Ginny McClelland Dancers

2 p.m.: Barbara's Dancing School

2:30 p.m.: Battle of the Bands: Victory Lane

3 p.m.: Levi Mt. Joy Irish Step Dancers

3:30 p.m.: Battle of the Bands: Manaia

4 to 6 p.m.: Country Showdown

6 p.m.: Baby Rain Day winners; Company C and Company K salute; race winners

7 p.m.: Husband Calling Contest

7:30 p.m.: Bad Medicine, a Bon Jovi tribute band

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