Under-the-radar festivals, hush-hush foodie finds and other hidden treasures in the Miami Valley.
By Timothy Walker
People rarely think of locations in the Dayton area when they’re looking for hidden treasures, fringe culture and unusual entertainment. Which is a shame, because the Miami Valley isn’t as quiet and mundane as many people might have you believe—Dayton, in truth, has much more to offer residents and visitors than beautiful parks and aviation history. Come with us and together we’ll explore some of our area’s more offbeat festivals and out-of-the-way treasures, all just waiting for you to come out and discover them.
The Cyclops Festival – conducted in September in Yellow Springs
A day-long celebration of handmade art and do-it-yourself or “DIY” culture, the Cyclops Festival has been conducted in Yellow Springs since 2011. As the brainchild of D.J. Galvin, her husband, Justin, and Justin’s mother, Connie Galvin, the Cyclops Festival was created to celebrate local craftsmen and artisans, and to give them a venue in which to showcase and sell their art.
“Cyclops Fest is a festival that celebrates independent makers and the DIY culture,” says D.J. Galvin. “Including handmade goods, music, food. We started it in 2011, I believe that was the first year. It all started when we saw that the handmade market really hadn’t taken off in this part of Ohio yet and we thought to ourselves how great it would be to have an annual festival that really focuses on that.
“If you’re independent then you’re supporting yourself and your community,” the local artist and entrepreneur says. Galvin, along with her husband and his mother, also own and operate Urban Handmade, a Yellow Springs boutique filled with exclusively handmade items, many of which are manufactured by the Galvins. If you’re looking for the unique plan a trip out to Yellow Springs and check out Urban Handmade and the many other artistic and outre’ shops located in the village.
The Marian Library, Roesch Library, 300 College Park Ave., Dayton
Far from Rome, and in fact located right here within the confines of the Roesch Library at the University of Dayton, the Marian Library houses the world’s single largest collection of published materials on the Virgin Mary. Founded by the Marianists in 1943, the Marian Library’s stated mission is to develop, maintain, preserve and provide access to materials that support Marian scholarship and sound Marian devotion. The multilanguage collection in Dayton is made up of an incredible 95,000 individual books and pamphlets, and these works are supplemented by a collection of Mary-related stamps, statues, medals, postcards and dozens of other works of fine art. The Marian Library is internationally recognized as a major center for studies on the Virgin Mary.
Stumpy John Silver – Heroic Winged Messenger, USAF Museum
During World War I homing pigeons were used to deliver messages when other means were unavailable. They were indispensable in carrying messages from front line outposts to pigeon lofts at command centers, which they returned to by instinct and training. Few, however, were as celebrated as “Stumpy” John Silver, whose final resting place is right here in Dayton at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
John Silver, hatched in January 1918, was a homing pigeon who, while delivering a message under heavy fire during the Meuse-Argonne offensive in France, was hit by an exploding shell. The bird lost his right leg and was heavily injured by shrapnel, but continued on his mission and managed to deliver the message successfully despite his injury. After this courageous feat John Silver was nursed back to health and became a war hero and mascot. He finally died of natural causes in 1935 at the age of 18. Having earned the nickname “Stumpy” and the admiration of soldiers and civilians around the nation, the pigeon’s remains were preserved and are now on display in a glass case, as befits a winged hero, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
“‘Stumpy’ John Silver,” says local aviation historian Dan Patterson, “was considered a national treasure after the end of World War I. His heroic efforts embodied the ideals of courage and bravery that so many of our soldiers also exhibited while in combat.”
White Lotus restaurant, 327 E. Third St., Dayton
If you like Thai food and you don’t mind a short wait then White Lotus is the restaurant for you. Homegrown foodies know all about this place and have kept the secret to themselves for too many years, but I’m here to tell you the tiny white joint across the street from the library’s new main branch is well worth the wait.
Whether your tastes run to coconut soup, chicken satay, pad thai, spring rolls or even a Yum Yum Burger it’s all made from scratch by the owner/operator, a lovely lady who has been there for more than 30 years. As long as you’re not in a hurry, and as long as you love good food made with a loving hand, then White Lotus is a unique and offbeat place you and your entire family will enjoy visiting.
With ghost hunting and paranormal researchers all the rage these days it would seem that everybody in town could recite the many “haunted” structures located in our city, such as Memorial Hall, the Amber Rose restaurant on Valley Street, the Masonic Temple, and the Ridge Avenue bridge—where the ghost of pregnant Bessie Little, killed by her sweetheart there in 1896, allegedly still walks to this day.
But no list of haunted vistas in our local area would be complete without a mention of Patterson’s Tower, located at Hills & Dales MetroPark, 2776 S. Patterson Blvd. in Kettering. Questions remain as to who built the tower, and why, but due to its eerie and macabre appearance generations of locals have referred to it as both the Witch’s Tower and Frankenstein’s Tower. In the 1960s, according to local legend, a group of teenagers was near the tower when a thunderstorm struck. While seeking shelter in the structure one teen was killed when lighting struck the tower. Legend has it that the structure has been haunted ever since.
Dayton has a lot to offer fans of the bizarre, unique and otherworldly. From fantastic Thai food to haunted houses and one-of-a-kind festivals, local residents have an entire underworld of local fun and good times from which to choose.