Spring is back, and Greater Cincinnati’s favorite unofficial holiday, Reds Opening Day, is upon us once again. But Dayton, Kentucky has taken the unofficial holiday a step further.
City offices will be closed Thursday so employees can enjoy a day of Reds festivities -- and no, this is not an April Fools joke.
"I'm very surprised that Dayton, Kentucky is the very first city that I know of in the country, probably in the world, to name Opening Day an official holiday,” said Dayton Mayor Ben Baker.
A Reds fan himself, Baker has proclaimed Opening Day a citywide holiday as a chance to celebrate new beginnings and baseball history. In fact, he said, Dayton has a rich history during the “dead ball” years of the early 20th century.
Inside Hometown Heroes Sports Cafe, which opened on Reds Opening Day four years ago, the wings are sizzling hot and beer is ice cold, and fans come to cheer on the home team.
"Every year, we have a big old get together inside and outside. Dollar beers for every Reds home run,” said Crystal Johnson, Hometown Heroes co-owner.
The cafe on Sixth Avenue opened as a place close to home for celebrations, game day and hangouts. Since its opening in 2016, Johnson said the city and the community have been supportive, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Johnson found out the city would make baseball Opening Day a city holiday, she knew it was great news the home team.
"I said they must love me! That's our holiday. That's our anniversary!" she said.
But it’s not an entirely new proclamation.
"Two years ago we were talking about it, saying, ‘why isn't Opening Day a holiday in the city?’ Someone said, ‘you can do that. You can make it a holiday,’" Baker said.
The mayor also proclaimed 2020 Opening Day a city holiday. But, like many things affected by COVID-19, it didn’t go as planned.
He knows city employees have worked hard through the year-long pandemic.
"They didn't bat an eye,” he said. “They just got to work and kept the city moving. It's exciting to be able to give them an extra day for them to be able to get out and enjoy normal life."
In 2021, he’s hoping the idea will be a home run around town. He also thinks it would be good for the region if other mayors followed this Kentucky river city’s example.
“I challenge every mayor in the Cincinnati region to name Opening Day a Cincinnati holiday,” Baker said.
Johnson agrees: “Our Mayor did an amazing thing making this a national holiday. I think everyone around the Tri-State area should follow suit.”
An opportunity to celebrate a new season in more ways than one is on deck.
“It’s spring. It’s a whole new year. It’s a clean slate. Boy, do we need that after last year,” Baker said. “What a rough year it was. This year is just great to be able to celebrate spring, a clean slate once again.”
The sweet sounds of spring are back. As for how the Hometown team does this year, everyone starts the season undefeated.
"I think they're going to do amazing,” Johnson said. “I'm just really hoping they'll do amazing. This year we need nothing but people to come out and enjoy the Reds. I think this year, we will."