DURAND (WJRT) -
(05/15/14) - It's a tribute to all things tied into trains - the thirty-ninth Durand Railroad Days is ready to roll down the tracks.
"We're ready to get outside, we're ready to ride some rides, eat some carnival food, and see some entertainment," said Adeline Wharton, Railroad Days co-chair person.
This weekend is extra special for Jerry Mowen. He's been named Railroader of the Year.
"Just proud as the dickens. I'm third generation railroad. I put in 42. It's a fabulous thing. It just really is," he said.
Festivities kicked off early Thursday morning at Durand Union Station. New this year - an Indy 500 race simulator.
"We have our Railroader 500 Kiss the Tracks. Our winner gets this fabulous wreath and we also have cash and gift prizes and a glass of milk, and you actually get a chance to kiss our railroad tracks," Wharton said.
For the first time, the festival will hold wine and beer tastings. Right Brain Brewery out of Traverse City plans to unveil something limited and rather unique.
"It's the 1225 for the steam train, so we developed a beer specifically for Railroad Days," said Russell Springsteen, of Right Brain Brewery.
Saturday features a Parade and road race. Carnival proceeds go toward the Lions club. Overall, the weekend provides a big a boost to Durand's economy.
"We try to bring 10 to $15,000 people here that aren't here every day so that they can come in and see what a fabulous place this is and enjoy our businesses," said Kent Edwards, Railroad Days president.
The Royal Court is ready to welcome in out of town visitors, and ready to promote the advantages - and disadvantages - of living in a place called "Train Town USA."
"Teachers are a little trepidacious when you tell them you're late because of a train. They know that there may or may not have been a train. It's just like saying, 'My dog ate my homework,'" said Anna Dietrich, Railroad Days Queen.
The carnival at Durand Railroad Days runs through Sunday.