Archive for Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Thomas was priceless

June 19, 2002

There is no more "toot, toot, toot" from Thomas emanating from the Midland Railway Depot. I miss that.

The six-day extravaganza out at the depot has been an absolute joy to watch. Anyone in Baldwin who didn't take part, or at least drop by, drive by, anything, really missed something.

I know there's many that didn't. The immediate reaction to the announcement that Thomas the Tank Engine was coming to Baldwin City was, for the most part, the same what's that? I know there were many who knew all about it. But I think I can speak for the majority who, like me, had never heard of Thomas.

I'm so glad that isn't true anymore. I know all about Thomas, now, and I'm a better person for it. The little train means a whole lot to a whole gaggle of kids and their parents. If you don't believe that, try once again to fathom 16,000 people coming to Baldwin, shelling out $14 a ticket to ride the little guy.

I'm a believer.

The simple math shows that alone to mean $224,000. That's a quarter of a million dollars, folks. And that doesn't touch what was spent on the last two weekends.

When you start thinking about the travel expenses, the imagination soars. These were people who weren't afraid to shell out who-knows-how-much to fly into KCI from California or who-knows-where, rent a car and come down to Baldwin City to see Thomas.

Of course most of them drove. But then there were others, like the Wellmans, who traveled nine time zones from Southern Africa to see Thomas. It was well worth the trip from anywhere.

The first weekend I concentrated on soaking Thomas in from the kids' point of view. Wow. I went up there numerous times and would just revel in the joy that these kids were having. It took me back to when my kids where that age. I enjoyed the trip and it didn't cost me a dime.

On the second weekend, I concentrated more on the Baldwin folks involved. I visited the tents. I saw the volunteers. I saw the dollar signs in everyone's eyes at the merchandising tent. Talk about wow. That was where the real money was made.

But there was more than that. There were the volunteer groups manning the food booths. Other volunteers were at the other tents. My only regret is that the line was always too long for me to get a Thomas tatoo. Really.

I went out there for those reasons, but also to fill the Signal newsstand. We couldn't keep papers in there, especially this weekend. Anything with Thomas on it sold.

My favorite time, however, was when my youngest son, Anthony, went out to the depot with me on Sunday, Father's Day. Not only were his inane comments about Thomas priceless, but mostly it was the shear fact that he humored the old man by going to see Thomas with me. I've got a picture of him by Thomas. He was the only one waving, like was supposed to happen. Again, priceless. And it didn't cost me the $7 a throw that the "official" pictures with Thomas were bringing. Thanks, Anth, you'll never know how much that meant to me.

But, of course, it is the money angle that brought me my biggest laugh from the second weekend which came from my 6-year-old surrogate son, Mitch Madl, the one who keeps me young. I found him Friday in one of the train tents. He showed me all of the Thomas paraphernalia he had bought. Except for one. Finally prodded he brought out the big guy the Thomas pull train.

"This cost like a thousand dollars," Mitch told me.

Maybe not quite, Mitch, but I know it's worth that to you. That's what Thomas was about priceless moments. I hope you got your money's worth. I sure did.

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