Remembering ‘The Natural’

SOUTH DAYTON – Thirty years ago, Hollywood came to a small town in Cattaraugus County. “The Natural,” starring Robert Redford, filmed one of the first scenes of the movie during summer 1983 in the area.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the movie’s filiming, the village of South Dayton will be holding a celebration in September. The movie tells the story of Roy Hobbs, played by Redford, and his baseball career. The scene of the train pulling into the depot and the carnival were filmed in South Dayton. The carnival scene was filmed on where the current fire hall stands.

To mark the anniversary, the village will host a celebration the first weekend in September. The idea came from South Dayton Mayor Karen Strickland. The event will be held 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7 and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8 at the South Dayton village park. A welcome ceremony and guest speakers will kick-off the weekend at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Guest speakers will be those who were extras in the film, including a former South Dayton pastor who portrayed a conductor. South Dayton resident Vivian Gould was an extra in the movie along with her son, Dennis, who was 11 years old at the time. All the photos that Gould has from filming will be put on a DVD which will be played at the event. Gould would like to get all 300 extras to come to the weekend-long celebration.

“We’re looking for the extras. We’re looking just to have a good time reminiscing. If they have pictures, they’re more than welcome to bring them,” Gould said.

For a complete list of extras, visit Also throughout the weekend the movie will be played at the fire department’s activity hall, a model train display by the Gowanda-Buffalo Train Club will be at the activity hall from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Antique cars and train rides will also be available. On Saturday, a pie baking contest will be held at 1 p.m., a baseball game will be played at 2 p.m. with music by the Slim Griffin Band starting at 3 p.m. A spaghetti dinner will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the activity hall. Continuing on Sunday will be the Mountain Railroad Band from 1-3 p.m. and a beef on weck dinner from noon to 2 p.m.

The film was made the end of August and the first part of September in 1983 and was released in theaters in 1984. Gould recalled how she became an extra.

“When we went downtown (South Dayton), I wasn’t even going to sign up but my two children wanted to be in it. They said ‘Mom, just sign up.’ Then we had to go to Buffalo and … there were five or six boys from this area that tried out (for the part Dennis received),” Gould said.

Dennis is the boy who runs after Hobbs as he is getting back on the train following the carnival. The young boy yells out to Hobbs that he has forgotten his jacket and has a baseball thrown to him as a souvenir. Gould said her son still has that baseball to this day and Redford even autographed it for him. During filming, Dennis was sick with tonsillitis.

“Doctor Lee gave him a shot of penicillin and said ‘We got to get you better,'” Gould said.

More than 300 extras from Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties were involved in the filming, which took place over the span of four days in the village. Gould remembered that during filming, the village of South Dayton turned from a rather small town into what seemed like a big city. She said extras worked very early in the morning to late at night. Gould recalled some visitors came to town just to get a glimpse of Redford. The filming even ran into the beginning of the school year but children were excused, according to Gould.

“The children missed the first few days of school but they were given permission by the governor that they could have it off and it would not be held against them,” she said.

While filming the baseball scene at the carnival, Gould remembered the man who was catching as Redford pitched complaining about the ball’s speed.

“When Redford was doing his baseball part, they pitched the ball in. Of course the guy when he caught it said ‘Ow.’ I said to somebody next to him, ‘He didn’t throw it that hard. It shouldn’t have hurt,'” Gould joked.

Craft vendors are being sought for the weekend. Any crafter, especially those who specialize in antique crafts, are encouraged to attend. The fee is $15 per day or $25 for the weekend. For an application, call Vivian Gould at 988-5975 or completed applications can be mailed to Vivian Gould, PO Box 85, South Dayton, N.Y. 14138. Reservations must be made by Aug. 1 and checks can be made payable to Vivian Gould. Antique cars prior to the 1940s are in need for the car show. If you have a car, contact Gould. All proceeds from the event will help benefit rebuilding the South Dayton playground.

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