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Vienna Home Day

Vienna Home Day, an annual gathering of current and former residents, was first celebrated in 1911. Between 1911 and 1968, former and current residents celebrating their home town and its history on the first Saturday in August. Vienna Home Day was revived in 2011.

The idea of a day devoted to one's hometown and its history began in 1899 in New Hampshire. That state's governor, Frank Rollins, proposed that communities hold an annual "Old Home" celebration, modeled on the popular practices of family reunions and picnics. Governor Rollins, worried about the decline of country villages and towns, believed that these "Old Home Days" would help to revitalize the rural economy. Individuals returning from the nation's swelling industrial cities to the hometowns of their youth were attracted to the old farmhouses and quaint village centers and main streets. They purchased and rehabilitated houses as summer homes, and donated money for town monuments and other improvements. Within two decades "Old Home Days" were being celebrated in the New England states and in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

The First Vienna Home Day

The first Home Day in Vienna Township was held on Wednesday, June 28, 1911, at the home and grove of Silas Shook, located on Youngstown-Kingsville Road a half-mile south of Vienna Center. Shook's opening remarks set the tone of the day: "that the men and women who had settled in Vienna were full of character and integrity and this was stamped on every act of their lives and it was our duty to carry on what we inherited from them in the same manner."

Shook donated the use of his grounds, threw open his home for the use of committees, and provided shelter tents and material for the speaker's stand. He enlisted the Grand Army of the Republic band from Youngstown to furnish music for the day. Civil War veteran Reverend Robert Stranahan, who had married and buried more people in Trumbull County than any other minister, offered an invocation. Judge G. M. Anderson, who had been born on the Shook property and was in 1911 a prominent attorney in Akron, was the featured speaker of the day. He also presented to the oldest lady in attendance, Betsy Norton (age 88), with a calico dress and to the oldest man, Lowell Bushnell (age 86), a box of smoking tobacco.

Those gathered for the festivities voted to establish Home Day as an annual event to be held at the Shook grove. Officers elected were A. B. Mannix (president), Effie Gano, Ruth Lewis, and Hazel Hanson (vice-presidents), Silas Shook (secretary), and Mrs. Silas Shook (treasurer).

The day was also filled with sports and games and celebrations of the Township's agrarian roots. Austin Andrews won a box of cigars for Best Single Rig, and the Best Farm Team competition was won by Thad Medley and Grover Griffin, who were awarded three dollars and two dollars, respectively. Races included standards such as the Boys' One Hundred Yard Dash (won by Joe Roberts) and the Girls' Fifty Yard Dash (won by Helen Betiker). But silliness also ruled the day. George Creed won a pair of suspenders for winning the Boys' Potato Race, while Kathleen Sutton and Rena Card each earned a box of candy for their performance in the Girls' Potato Race. Joe Sheasley won one dollar for his first-place finish in the Tub Race.

Home Days, 1912-1956

Within a decade, the annual Home Day event was moved to the Township Green. The Vienna Presbyterian Church and the Vienna Methodist Church took turns serving dinners.

A Homecoming Committee formed from the membership of the Vienna Boosters Club planned the event. In the early years, John Morris, owner of the Morris Lumber Company, provided the materials for the speakers' and entertainment platform, which was constructed by carpenter L. O. Clower. Printed programs were provided.

At the 16th annual Home Day in 1926 the large crowd gathered under clear skies to watch a parade headed by the Gillian Band of Warren, Ohio. Leading the parade were the six Civil War veterans remaining in the Township: H. M. Boys, Ralph Combs, Lucius Scovill, Dwight Baldwin, C. B. Hughes, and Edwin Boyd. Wade Lathrop acted as marshal of the day. Parade judges were former residents Don S. Leet, Jennie Davis, and Clint Squires, all of whom returned to Vienna for the day. The Leet family held its first annual reunion on the same day. They were descendants of Andrew Leet, who came to Vienna from Connecticut in 1820.

The Best Decorated Truck in the parade was awarded to J. H. Durig, while the Best Decorated Car awards were won by Bernice Brunswick (1st Place) and William Brunswick (2nd Place). Tom Scott won 1st Place in the Best Decorated Pony category, with Francis Hayes and Fred Catchpole winning the 2nd and 3rd places, respectively. The Best Decorated Bicycle was created by Edgar Hoffman (1st Place) and Buddy Governor (2nd Place).

In 1946, "Welcome Home G.I." was the theme. The Homecoming Committee's message to the World War II veterans in the Township was:

To you we pledge our eternal gratitude for the service you have rendered in the name of humanity. To God above all we offer thanks and breathe a fervent prayer that we may be granted the wisdom and the courage to hold fast to those victories you have won at such a cost! Again--Welcome Home G.I.

General Chairman of the day was Charles Tidd. Other committee member were Ross W. Boyd, Mrs. T. E. Thoma, Mrs. D. H. Buckley, Harry Scott, L. W. Grimsley, E. A. Dray, C. A. Daubenmire, H. K. Viets, J. H. Wanamaker. Paul C. Shoff, Norman Beach, W. D. Kyle, Henry Huffman, Wade Lathrop, J. R. Anderson, and John Pennell.

Vienna Volunteer Firemen's Festival
In 1957 the Vienna Township Volunteer Fire Department assumed Home Day planning. The event became the Vienna Volunteer Firemen's Festival. The event was held on the properties behind Vienna Center businesses. Good crowds attended year after year, but rising costs brought a halt to the annual homecoming. The last Firemen's Festival took place in 1970.

Home Day Returns: The Centennial Celebration, 2011
"Vienna Brings Back to Life Old Home Day," Warren Tribune-Chronicle, August 28, 2011

Vienna Home Day, 2012
Please stay tuned!

Vienna Home Day, 2013

"Vienna Home Day Festival Enjoyed By Hundreds," WKBN-27, August 24, 2013
"Vienna Marks Home Day," Warren Tribune-Chronicle, August 28, 2013

Vienna Home Day was not celebrated in 2014.

Sources
Program, Vienna Home Day, Saturday, August 4th, 1928
Program, Vienna Home Day, Saturday, August 3rd, 1929
Program, 21st Annual Vienna Home Day, Saturday, August 6, 1932


This article is adapted from "'The Home-Coming Drew A Crowd of 3,000 People': Vienna Home Day," in Vienna, Ohio, "Where We Live and Let Live": Town 4, Range 2 of the Connecticut Western Reserve (Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1999), pp. 185-187, with additional research by Shirley T. Wajda.