Rain soaks Thomas event, but attendance still strong
In a word, it was wet.
A good portion of the weekend proved to be pretty soggy, but the buckets of rain Saturday didn't keep Thomas from making his scheduled trips down Midland Railway.
Tim DeMott said around 1,800 people attended Day Out With Thomas on Saturday. That wasn't a bad number, he said, considering it poured nine hours.
"We had three hours it didn't rain," DeMott, event supervisor, said. "But by that time, we were so saturated, it didn't make a bit of difference. We had a bunch of wet people."
There was a lot of wet ground, too. He said two loads of gravel had to be brought in Saturday afternoon to try to take care of large mud puddles forming around the depot grounds.
He said the grassy areas near the air walk and activity tents became swampy with the nearly four inches of rain that fell.
But the wet weather didn't keep Midland from having a successful Thomas event.
"It went really well," DeMott said. "We're pleased."
He said a little more than 10,600 people attended the two-weekend Day Out With Thomas event. It's the third year for the children's event, which features train rides on Thomas, a full-size, 17-ton, 25-foot-long replica, as well as several other activities.
Midland uses the event as a fundraiser for regular maintenance on the tracks and equipment, but also special projects. The plan this year is to use some of the proceeds to help refurbish cars for a dinner train from Baldwin to Ottawa.
Last year, around 13,000 people attended Day Out With Thomas. He said he thought the rainy weather this year contributed to lower attendance numbers.
"But we're still very pleased with the turnout," he said.
Sunday's weather, he said, helped with attendance.
"Sunday was a beautiful day," he said. "We set a record for walk-in sales. We had over 600 people walk in on Sunday alone."
The depot grounds were also full much of the time Friday as well. Mark Berard and his 3-year-old son, Zachary, were two in attendance Friday. The pair came from Shawnee for Zachary's second-ever train ride.
"He was basically entranced the entire time," Mark Berard said after their ride on Thomas. "I couldn't believe how well he sat."
DeMott said it seemed that most people enjoyed Day Out With Thomas, even those caught in the rain.
He said Midland has yet to decide whether Thomas will be back again next year. Right now, volunteers are just focused on cleaning up after this year's event.
"As can be expected, we're all burned out right now and tired and ready to go home," he said.