DAYTON — For one day a year, the streets of downtown Dayton are transformed into a stretch of arts and crafts exhibitors and food vendors, leaving the hands of the thousands of attendees filled with treats.
And the 40th annual Dayton Days Autumn Celebration was no exception as nearly 40,000 people from across Virginia lined the streets so tight that visitors were walking in the ditches to get around.
When attendees arrived to the festival, they were greeted with the sweet and salty smell of freshly made kettle corn. With every gust of wind, hints of brown sugar and caramel swept by people’s noses, enticing them to buy a bag full of the enticing treat.
The Valley’s own Ole’ Time Fried Pies cured the sweet tooth for those indulging on savory foods, providing handmade “just like grandma’s” pies fried up and ready to be devoured.
Fried pies came in an assortment of flavors, including apple, blackberry, blueberry, cherry, chocolate, coconut, peach and strawberry rhubarb that gave a pop of color to the crisp fried pie dough.
Those looking to have lunch at the festival had an assortment of barbecue options, as well as crab cake sandwiches from Sherri’s Crab Cakes, Domino’s Pizza supporting the Special Olympics and the Thomas House Restaurant in the center of it all.
In the middle of food trucks and freshly squeezed lemonade booths were more than 300 arts and crafts booths selling anything from fall decor to small furniture pieces.
Those who had experience attending Dayton Days brought their own portable wagon to fill up with their new treasures.
Strollers carried bags and boxes of items instead of children and many people carried bright yellow sunflowers in paper bags that were picked up for free from the nearby sunflower field.
For businesses that found themselves in the middle of the festivities, business was taking off.
The Cottage, located on the edge of Main Street and College Street, became a hub for visitors to stop by at as it was conveniently located where the path of the festival loops back around.
The Cottage has been operating at its current location since 2010, making Saturday’s Dayton Days its ninth.
“It has really been booming in here,” owner Mike Logan said. “There is definitely more people here than last year.”
The gift shop never saw a quiet moment as the front door stayed open, letting the chilled fall air enter the crowded store.
“[Dayton Days] is the best day of the year for all the businesses here,” Logan said. “It is a lot to take in because there is a lot of people in town, but it is great.”
By noon, the shop’s walls began to clear out as customers picked up extra treats throughout the day.
Not only did people leave with new decorations and potential Christmas gifts, they also left with memories.
Jason Fleisher has been coming to Dayton Days for as long as he can remember, saying that over the years it has become a tradition.
“I started coming as a kid with my family and we just ended up coming back each year,” Fleisher said. “It is a family event with about every type of food there is here.”
Fleisher said each year the event gets busier and bigger.
“It’s a great event for everyone, especially those with children,” Fleisher said.