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Culture Couch is WYSO's occasional series exploring the arts and culture scene in our community. It’s stories about creativity – told through creative audio storytelling.

Dayton Residents Come Together At The Longest Table

Dayton's second Longest Table meal took place on the Third Street bridge
Renee Wilde
Dayton's second Longest Table meal took place on the Third Street bridge

This fall, people from all over the Dayton region came together to for the second annual Longest Table event. Organized by UpDayton, the Third Street Bridge downtown is blocked off to traffic and turned into a community dinner party open to the public, and Community Voices reporter Renee Wilde went to break bread with fellow Daytonians.

It’s a beautiful fall afternoon and the Third Street Bridge spanning the Miami River in Downtown Dayton is lined end to end with long, white, folding tables and chairs, ready for the crowd of people gathered at the far end of the bridge. 

These people milling about represent about 60 different zip codes from around Dayton area. They’ve come here today to eat good food donated by local businesses and meet new people from different communities.

The Longest Table Event started three years ago in Tallahassee, as a way to strengthen relationships across diverse communities. The city won a John S and James L Knight Foundation Award for their efforts. Since then other cities have adopted the annual event as a way for different neighborhoods to come together.

Dayton's second Longest Table meal has drawn residents who are both newly relocated to the city, and long-time Daytonians.

Credit Renee Wilde / WYSO

One of the main topics of conversation people were having around the tables was the revitalization of Downtown Dayton and its surrounding areas.

“I wish that in my community people would take pride in their property. Not litter, not put things out on the street,” said one attendee.

“I’m glad Dayton’s coming back to life, their trying to fix up downtown and bringing people together with the baseball field and a lot of other things that they’re trying to do. So I’m really, really happy about that,” said another.

But, there was one person I talked to who couldn’t wait to graduate high school in 2020 and leave Dayton behind.

“I been here for most of my life, but yeah it’s good so far. Plan on leaving though.”

The event’s organizer UpDayton has gone on to host smaller monthly meals in community centers all around the area. Organizers hope that by continuing to bring people together from all over Dayton, it will challenge residents to re-think their assumptions about other neighborhoods and build stronger community ties.

“We brought people together to have conversations," said the organizers in a speech to the crowd. "And in times like this, where our nation can feel kind of divided, it’s really easy to get behind a keyboard and complain. But this right here, this is community building. And I want you all to give yourselves a round of applause for coming together because you care about our community."

Is the spirit of innovation still alive and well in the Miami Valley –– who benefits, and what do you want the future to look like?


Culture Couch is our occasional series on the arts, made possible by a generous grant from the Ohio Arts Council.

Renee Wilde was part of the 2013 Community Voices class, allowing her to combine a passion for storytelling and love of public radio. She started out as a volunteer at the radio station, creating the weekly WYSO Community Calendar and co-producing Women’s Voices from the Dayton Correctional Institution - winner of the 2017 PRINDI award for best long-form documentary. She also had the top two highest ranked stories on the WYSO website in one year with Why So Curious features. Renee produced WYSO’s series County Lines which takes listeners down back roads and into small towns throughout southwestern Ohio, and created Agraria’s Grounded Hope podcast exploring the past, present and future of agriculture in Ohio through a regenerative lens. Her stories have been featured on NPR, Harvest Public Media and Indiana Public Radio.