Archive for Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Thousands make trip for Thomas

June 12, 2002

Brock Baldridge swerves to the right and veers to left dodging the crowd of people as he runs excitedly up to the train tracks.

The 3-year-old from Liberty, Mo., is just in time to see Thomas the Tank Engine roll to a stop in front of the Midland Railway Depot.

"There he is. There he is," Brock yells as he points to the 17-ton, 25-foot-long blue engine replica with his giant smiley face.

Wearing a giant Thomas and Friends backpack and khaki Thomas overalls, he pumps a fist up and down imitating the train whistle he hears.

"Woo woo. Woo woo," he says. "Hi Thomas."

Brock's mom, Julie Baldridge, said he was excited to get a chance to see Thomas in person.

"He's a big fan," she said.

Brock was only one of more than 8,000 fans, many of whom were young children, in attendance for Day Out With Thomas this weekend.

"The event was sold out as we expected," Tom Wheeler, event director, said. "Next weekend is sold out, too."

Day Out With Thomas, which is geared for children ages 2 to 6, lasted all weekend and will be going again this Friday through Sunday.

It features a train ride on Thomas, a popular storybook and public television character. Other attractions include Thomas videos, an activities tent with coloring and a model train, temporary Thomas tattoos, concessions and a merchandise tent.

Wheeler said people from 22 states bought 16,000 tickets for the event and came from as far away as New Jersey, Nevada and Arizona.

Robin Bennett brought her son, Garrett, and his friend, Wyatt Hatfield, from Tulsa, Okla., just for the event.

"We made a weekend trip of it," she said.

Both of the 5-year-old boys, Bennett said, are fans of Thomas.

"They have both been just hyper for the last three days," she said. "It's all they've talked about."

Kathy Rhodes said her son, Jesse, is also a fan, which is why they made the trip to Baldwin from Edmond, Okla.

"We wanted to follow him last year, but he didn't come anywhere south enough," Rhodes said. "This is the closest he's come."

Jesse and Kathy Rhodes made the long car trip worthwhile by riding Thomas twice.

"After a four and a half hour drive, I thought we're just going to do it all the way," she said. "This is our vacation."

Wheeler said everyone seemed to enjoy the event.

"We didn't have any idea how people would respond to this," he said. "But the people that came were pleased. There was not one complaint from anybody."

He said the weather didn't give them much to complain about either.

"All in all the weather was really good," he said. "The rain shower on Sunday kind of dampened things, but it didn't change the spirit of anybody."

Brock didn't have any complaints when he finally got close enough to Thomas to almost touch him.

"He's definitely excited," Julie Baldridge said.

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