Monday, December 21, 2009

Choo-Choo Here Comes Christmas, Traverse City 2009 Festival of Trains

Before the X-box and Wii, before the internet, before Pac Man and Pong there was the train.

A holiday themed 'O' guage model engine makes its way around the main display table at the 2009 Festival of Trains.
For millions of children in the 1950’s or 60’s Christmas morning may well have included any one of a hundred different electric train sets that would endlessly hum and click their way around their small oval of tracks. In Traverse City the Northern Michigan Model Railroad Club is helping to keep these holiday memories alive by hosting their annual Festival of Trains.

Each holiday season the twenty four member club opens up its layout of tracks, trains and accessories for public display at the downtown Heritage Center. The event has been held at the center since 2003 and according to club member Roy Aydelotte of Grawn, who also does toy train upgrades and repair, last years event drew more than 8,500 guests. In its first three days this year it has already hosted more than 2,500 visitors.

Mallory Rhem (left) speaks to her daughter Shannon (center) as she and Caitlynn Gehrett (right) enjoy one of the displays at the 2009 Festival of Trains.
The event draws people of all ages from around the area and is very popular with families. Children can operate the various trains and the numerous accessories that line the hundreds of feet of track that make up the festivals main display. “Trains have historically been, for the last hundred years, a part of Christmas and this is a place to come to help celebrate Christmas” says Aydelotte who got his first set at the age of four. “You won’t have this kind of fun anywhere else.”

Model train enthusiasts of all ages enjoy the main display of the 2009 Festival of Trains.
Club members man the controls of the various layouts and are often happy to answer questions about the trains and their club. In addition to the changes the club makes to the layout each year to keep it fresh visitors are likely to see different trains each day as club members bring in and operate engines and cars from their personal collections.

New additions to this year’s event include a small Thomas the Tank Engine cab for children. Kids inside the cab can operate a small model of the popular storybook train, turn on and off the cabs lights, ring the engines bell and sound the trains whistle using a rope pull.

The Festival of Trains is open every day except Christmas day through January 3rd. The events entrance fee also allows visitors to browse the Heritage Centers local history collections that include Native American artifacts and Victorian era displays.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Livestock, Bright Lights and Rodeo, Must Be Fair Time!

Ferris wheel lights are part of a colorful nighttime display put on by the midway rides at the 2009 Emmet/Charlevoix County Fair.

As always the half way point of the annual week long Emmet-Charlevoix County Fair was celebrated with kids day. Midway rides, the lamb show, a dog agility show and a visit from the rodeo were just some of the Wedensday events that drew families looking for a little fun from across the two county area.

Fair goers scream and yell as they enjoy one of the midway rides at the 2009 Emmet/Charlevoix County Fair.

2005 Miss Rodeo Michigan Katie Ervay of Shelby, Michigan rides with the American flag during the opening of the Excalibur Rodeo at the 2009 Emmet/Charlevoix County Fair.

One of the most popular of the weeks grandstand activities the Excalibur Rodeo's variety of events and entertainment provided competitors from throughout the state, including several local residents, the opportunity to compete for an appreciative crowd and cash prizes in bull riding and barrel racing events.

Tim Murlow of Brown City, MI rides in the first round of the Excalibur Rodeo bull riding competitiion at the 2009 Emmet/Charlevoix County Fair.

Pitting their skills and 100 something pound bodies against the bucking and twisting of the approximately one ton animals that make up the Excaliburs stock selection several local competitors took place in the bull riding event. At the end of the day though it was Brown City's Tim Murlow that managed to make two complete eight second rides to take home the top prize.

Petoskey's Justin Archy makes an early dismount during the Excalibur Rodeo bull riding competitiion at the 2009 Emmet/Charlevoix County Fair.
Cheryl Lenneman of Petoskey, who had the crowd holding their breath when she slightly overshot her stop and hit the arena fencing, was the only local competitor in the barrel racing event. The 13.3 second ride of former Miss Rodeo Michigan Katie Ervay of Shelby, MI would prove impossible to top for the Lennehan and the field of nine other ladies who entered the event.

Cheryl Lenneman of Petoskey makes a wide turn during the Excalibur Rodeo barrel racing competitiion at the 2009 Emmet/Charlevoix County Fair.

The loudest cheers of the night were given up for local 4-H riders who got the chance to try their luck steering their horses through the cloverleaf barrel racing course between events. Rider almost brought the house down as he fearlessly charged through the barrels turning a sub 20 second time.

A complete schedule for the remaining days of the fair can be found on-line at