Archive for Thursday, July 15, 2004

Preparing for Thomas

Hours of prep work needed to bring children’s event to Midland Railway

July 15, 2004

It takes an entire year to plan and organize, but Tim DeMott believes the hours of work are worth the effort as long as families have fun at the Day Out With Thomas event.

"We're doing this for the kids," DeMott, event supervisor, said.

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Midland Railway is sponsoring Day Out With Thomas the next two weekends. The event, in its third year, is for children ages 2 to 6 years old. It features 25-minute train rides throughout the day with Thomas the Tank Engine, a full-size, 17-ton, 25-foot-long replica of the popular children's book and public television show character, leading the excursions.

But DeMott said it takes several volunteers and many hours of work to get the depot grounds ready for the six-day event.

"We started planning this year's as soon as the event ended last year," he said.

The past several months, a nine-member committee has been meeting regularly to plan the event. He said some of the responsibilities include planning activities, securing permits, coordinating food vendors, finding groups to staff the event and ordering tents, trailers, merchandise and other supplies.

He said the work at the depot really starts going a couple of weeks before the event when crews spend 40 to 60 hours a week preparing for the thousands of people that will visit Midland.

"There are just so many tasks to be done," he said. "A lot of stuff really doesn't seem to count, but it takes a lot of time."

On average, he said, about six people are working at the depot at a time setting up the nine large tents, 96 tables and more than 150 chairs that will be used during the event, as well as making sure more than 1,000 feet of extension cords and 400 feet of phone lines are laid properly.

DeMott said workers also make sure the grounds and depot area are ready for use. That includes everything from mowing to rocking driveways to cleaning and fixing trains.

A lot of what's left, he said, includes making sure vendors are still going to set up, organizing shuttle bus routes and scheduling activities and personnel to run them.

"We're just making sure we've got everything covered," he said.

But the work doesn't end once the event begins. DeMott said there are usually around 125 workers at the event at one time trying to make it run as smoothly as possible.

There are those who even take time off from their jobs to help set up and work the event, he said.

"There is a lot of vacation time and personal days taken," he said. "For a lot of people, this is their vacation for the summer."

DeMott said Day Out With Thomas would not happen if it weren't for the effort of the people volunteering numerous work hours.

But he feels the work is worth it because not only do families enjoy the event, he said community organizations benefit as well.

"It's a good fundraiser for our organization and it's a good fundraiser for all the other organizations in town that help out," he said.

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