By Emily Hoard • Staff Writer • 

A reunion for all ages

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Michaela Fujita-Conrads/News-Register##Dean Wegner serves potato salad at the Dayton Old Timer Chicken Barbeque.
Michaela Fujita-Conrads/News-Register##Dean Wegner serves potato salad at the Dayton Old Timer Chicken Barbeque.

Born in the neighboring town of Grand Island, Wiley came to Dayton for high school, then attended Oregon State University, where he met Henrietta. They married in 1953, while Wiley was serving in the Air Force as a fighter pilot, flying an F-86 out of bases in Japan and South Korea.

His four children also attended Dayton High and Oregon State.

After living on a farm in Grand Island for 70 years, he moved back to Dayton in 2002. He has been closely involved in the community, attending numerous local athletic contests.

The grandfather of five said he and Henrietta attended the Old-Timers Festival to renew acquaintances with people they’ve gotten to know over the years.

The festival started with a potluck picnic in 1934. In the 1980s, it grew into a three-day event, complete with a parade, set of class reunions and chicken barbecue.

The senior court was added seven years ago. This year, Queen Catherine Poe and King John Francis were crowned in a Friday evening ceremony.

Mayor Beth Wytoski, a third-generation Dayton High graduate, said this festival was a major part of her childhood.

 “It honors and celebrates the people who built the community and keep it going,” Wytoski said.

She described it as a huge event that inspires community pride. “It always feels like coming home,” she said.

The Dayton Fire Department has been hosting on the chicken barbecue for at least 30 years.

Assistant Fire Chief Larry Finnicum said, “The money from this goes into the volunteer fund. It’s all given back to the community.”

He said most of the funds go toward buying school supplies, Christmas gifts, helmets and other presents for children.

His sister, Kim Vizina of the class of 1974, also attended.

“It’s fun to run into people I haven’t seen in a while, like this one,” she said as she hugged her friend, Sandy Storey. It had been eight years since the two last saw each other.

Vizina and Finnicum’s parents, Louie and Freeman Finnicum, also joined in the festivities. Louie Finnicum, member of Dayton High’s class of 1955, has lived in Dayton since she was 5. And she’s been coming to the Old-Timers Festival almost that long.

“It’s my favorite day of the year,” she said. “I know just about everybody here.

They come from far and wide. Every year I see people I haven’t seen in a while.”

She pointed to a friend standing nearby. “It’s the only time I see her,”  she said.

Peg Morris, of the class of 1964, was catching up with Barbara Stoutenburg, who moved to Dayton in 1948, at the age of 27.

Each year, Morris said, she leaves with fond memories.

Stoutenburg said it’s a time to look back and reflect on how things have changed in Dayton.

The Old-Timers Festival also featured a parade Friday Night, in association with the Dayton Friday Nights Series.

The Friday Nights Series includes food, vendor booths, a cruise-in and live music. Dayton Community Food Bank volunteers Debra Nissen, Nadine Sampson, Janice Hutton and Diana Brewer make and sell a variety of pies for the event each week.

“Local businesses and other agencies are supported while we’re having fun with the family at the same time,” said Rosalba Sandoval-Perez. She and her sisters, who’ve lived in Dayton for 25 years, meet one another at the park every Friday.

Sandoval watched the Old-Timers parade with her son, who was especially excited about the pirate float.

Her sister Erica said, “It’s nice to have so many people from the community- and outside the community- come enjoy the festivities.”

Erica’s daughter, Nayeli Arenas, 10, said her favorite part was the Dairy Queen. “She had a cow by her side and a pretty pink dress and balloons,” Nayeli noted.

Children were also enjoying other activities, including the ring-toss and pony rides.

City Councilors John Bixter and Darrick Price were selling tickets for the pony rides.

“It’s wonderful for the city,” Price said. “It’s a time for our community to spend time together and share our story.”


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