By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
In consecutive weeks earlier in April, the Hope Train Day committee met in planning of this year’s now-seventh annual event happening May 4, but the fact that an entire 12-member committee is now needed after seven years is testimony to growth and staying power of what was once a one-time event to celebrate AMTRAK’s arrival.
The glue and the visionary that has maintained Train Day through the years has been Tailgater’s owner Sharon Caldwell. Caldwell has stayed true to her vision of the event, a day of family fun downtown for both adults and kids to enjoy, and to “keep everything free for the kids.”
“It takes a team effort and community support to keep this event running and growing every year. It isn’t the work of one person; I’ve got to give credit to everyone. It takes a whole team, and we are blessed to have a dedicated group of volunteers and sponsors with us,” she said.
“And, one of the goals was always to keep as much free for kids and families as possible. We wanted it to be fun for all without all the expense. We wanted something that people could relax and enjoy a good time,” Caldwell said.
Now, seven years later, Train Day arrives again, and Caldwell said, “It is a great team that we had come together, and it is great to have young people like Summer Powell, Brittany Lewis, and Aley Mendoza getting involved as the next generation to keep it going.”
Year 7 of Train Day will also bring 11 vendors and a pair of acts for the evening concert, starting at 5 p.m. with opening band Nighthawk, and a local supergroup, South Down Main, taking the stage at 6 p.m.
Also, new for Year 7 will be a Car Show, and for the growing rib cook-off, eight cooking teams have signed up to compete.
And many traditional attractions will return like the popular “Petting Zoo,” the “Kid’s Corner” with annual Bouncy House and Slide, a Baggo Tournament, face painting, art projects, and downtown kids train rides.
Saturday, May 4’s preliminary schedule of activities for Train Day include:
5K RUN/KIDS RUN
Downtown Hope starting at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.
A prayer led by Pastor Steve Johnson of First United Methodist Church at 9 a.m. (at Division and Main Streets)
The Dancetastics dance studio will return to present a dance show featuring dancers of all ages, starting at 10 a.m.
BBQ Rib Cook-off
A BBQ cook-off with $2,500 in prizes and eight teams currently signed up will take place all day with the competitors selling rib plates. Rib cook-off winners will be announced at approximately 4:45 p.m.
Baggo Tournament will begin on Main Street with winners being awarded cash prizes, starting at 3 p.m.
The band, Nighthawk, will open the concert, beginning at 5:00 p.m. The local supergroup, South Down Main, will be the featured performance, staring at 6 p.m.
Editor’s Note: Caldwell said additional schedule and public information on Train Day will be announced next week.