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Railroad Days chug along despite wind gusts

See more photos from this event

About 50 vendors turned out to serve more than 1,000 guests on a blustery Saturday for the annual Camak Railroad Days festival.

The crowd enjoyed a railroad display, miniature trains, pony rides, gospel music, rides, classic cars and food. Booths sold barbecued turkey legs, chicken, ribs, burgers, pork skins, hot dogs, popcorn, lemonade and more.

The $8 railroad hats sold at the information booth protected many heads from the midday sun.

Proceeds from the festival support a community project each year. This year's proceeds go to restore a cemetery with tombstones dating back to the 18th century. Past profits helped build the very gazebo at which the Saturday festival was centered.

Wind gusts damaged tents and overturned displays, but there were no reports of serious injury.

"Some of the new vendors didn't know to bring something to weight down the tents," said Susan Reese, a member of the festival organizing committee.

Ray Pinion of Norwood was playing The Wabash Cannonball and other railroad classics from the gazebo when a commotion arose close to the tracks.

Clyde Lewis of Atlanta scurried to catch his display table, which had dumped necklaces and sunglasses onto Railroad Street. A dozen bystanders pitched in to collect the merchandise and return it to the table.

"My brand new tent I just bought two days ago broke," said Sharon Skinner of Hampton, Ga., at the center of the festival. "It's $250 for that."

Lemon slices and powdered sugar were scattered on the grass around Skinner's food booth as a crew member cut down the remaining awning. She kept selling the hot dogs and sausages that had been cooked before the wind blast.

Kathy Atkins of Martinez was working at a booth with friends Mike and Peggy Mitchell of Martinez, who were selling gift baskets, necklaces and other gifts. The wind caught the tent and sent Atkins rolling into the shallow ditch next to the tracks.

"The pole got me and turned my chair backward and my head just landed in the water," she said.

"It's been a real experience," said Peggy Mitchell.

The tent was new, and the Mitchells were making their first appearance as festival vendors.

Shirleen Bell, a city council member who also serves on the organizing committee, said about 10 vendors called to sign up on Friday, bringing the total to about 50.

"It's better this year than it has been the past couple years," she said.

Reese extended a special thanks to the many volunteers who make the event possible.

Visitors far outnumbered townsfolk, who number about 200.

"It's such a small town, but we love it," Reese said.

Railroad retirees gathered in a block building, where Bill Bales displayed items ranging from a conductor's cap to an actual telegraph key.

Ted Holt of Thomson retired from Georgia Railroad as a track inspector. His career spanned 1971 to 1998. He recalled the early days of pumping a hand car down the Georgia tracks.

Bales recalled using the very telegraph key he had on display for the festival, where he has volunteered for about 10 years. He said it was last used in the mid-'70s.

The town's fire trucks had been stationed at Warrenton for the weekend, leaving the building open for the Georgia-Carolina Railroad Modelers' intricate display of working trains. The group claims about a dozen members, but no railroad veterans.

"I don't think any of us ever worked on the railroad," Dave Amerman of North Augusta said.



Web posted on Thursday, April 07, 2011













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