July 29th may be just another day to the rest of the world, but to the residents of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, USA, it has a special significance that is passed along from generation to generation. It all started during the late 1800’s at a drugstore located on High Street (the main street in town). A farmer was in the drugstore and mentioned that it would rain the next day, July 29. When asked how he knew, he replied that it was his birthday and that it always rained on his birthday. This comment inspired William Allison, the pharmacist to keep an annual record of the rainfall on that day. William’s brother, Albert, continued recording this mystical event; then, sometime during the 1920’s, the record keeping was taken over by the late Bryon Daily.
Rain Day would have remained a local phenomenon if it hadn’t been for the efforts of the late Waynesburg newsman John O’Hara. He began sending Rain Day stories to other newspapers in the 1930’s. Today, newspapers, TV and radio stations from around the world flood the town of Waynesburg with calls every July 29th to learn if it has indeed rained. For many years, the only observances of Rain Day were the annual “hat bet” between Bryon Daily’s son, John and a national or regional celebrity and a brief ceremony on the Courthouse steps. In 1979, the Waynesburg Borough Special Events Commission was created to hold a special celebration on July 29th each year. That same year, the Waynesburg Area Chamber of Commerce held the first annual Miss Rain Day Pageant.
Harry Anderson, star of TV’s Night Court, was the unsuspecting bettor in 1988; that year it didn’t rain, so the commission sent Harry a hat. The hat appeared on the bookshelves behind his desk on the set for several episodes next to his armadillo. In 2003, the Chamber of Commerce created a new non-profit entity, Rain Day Scholarship, Inc. with the sole purpose to plan and execute the pageant. Each year, one talented local teenage girl wins the coveted crown, hundreds of dollars in scholarship savings bonds and the chance to ‘reign’ over the day’s festivities.