A record Thomas year
Thomas the Tank Engine has come and gone again for the fifth straight year.
A Day Out With Thomas 2006: Come Ride the Rails finished its Baldwin City tour Sunday afternoon. During its two weeks, Thomas put smiles on the faces of many children from all over the world.
Nathan Schrock brought his 5-year-old son Eric Schrock from Harrisonville, Mo., to see Thomas for the first time Friday.
"He's always been a Thomas fan," Nathan Schrock said. "He's got all of the shows, videos and lots of the trains. He has the whole nine yards."
Mike Nelson and his son Paul Nelson, 3, from Liberty, Mo., enjoyed the Thomas celebration.
"He (Paul) is crazy about Thomas," Mike Nelson said. "He has been looking for Thomas all day and now he's here."
Some parents even made clothes for their children to wear at the event. Gabriel Hamel, 2, came to see Thomas with his parents, Rick and Kim Hamel, from Wichita.
"His mother made him his shorts for the trip down here," Rick Hamel said. "He loves Thomas."
Many families came to see Thomas the Tank Engine for the first year this year. Rebecca Squires, Blue Springs, Mo., took her son Peyton Squires, 4, to see Thomas Friday afternoon.
"This is his first time and he loves it," Rebecca Squires said. "He has all of the books and trains, but he usually just watches the videos. He loves Thomas."
The Johnson family of Brian, LaDonna and Kody came from Lincoln, Neb., for Thomas last weekend. Kody, 3-and-a-half-years-old, is a huge Thomas fan, according to his father.
"This was his first time on the train," Brian Johnson said. "He's having a lot of fun. We have got lots of Thomas stuff at home. We are hoping to get some video of him here so he can watch it at home."
Event Supervisor Tim DeMott said the train ride brings most visitors to A Day Out With Thomas.
"Most people ride the train, but there are other family members that come out just to enjoy the grounds and enjoy the festivities," DeMott said.
Besides the train ride, A Day Out With Thomas offers children many activities and opportunities to have fun. Some of the other events include a moonwalk, inflatable slide, toy trains, bubble machines, Thomas videos and Marty the Magician.
This year there were a few new activities, such as the treasure hunt, LEGO Thomas replica and the straw maze.
"The straw maze is always a blast," DeMott said. "We also had a treasure hunt, but the kids had more fun playing in the sand than they did hunting for the treasures."
Those new events help bring back returning visitors each year, such as the Gallaway family from Topeka. Dale and Linda Gallaway brought their sons Aaron, 8, and Jason, 5, to see Thomas for the fourth year.
They have been pleased with the addition of new activities each year.
"There is a lot more here than there was the first year we came," Linda Gallaway said. "Every year they seem to add something new. It's a fun family event."
Dale Gallaway said the family travels to see Thomas every year for a vacation.
"We don't take cruises of fly to Disneyworld," Dale Gallaway said. "We like the new things. Last year the magician was new for us."
The 2006 Thomas celebration brought in a record number of visitors to the Midland Railway, according to DeMott.
"It was an awesome year," DeMott said. "We set record numbers with nearly 19,000 passengers, but we don't know how many others came out to enjoy the festivities."
The Midland Railway has hosted Thomas the Tank Engine for five years and has become familiar with how to run the event smoothly.
"Every year, we become more proficient with what we are doing," DeMott said. "The hours become shorter and shorter. We start about 8 a.m. and finish up about 8 p.m."
DeMott said many people visiting Thomas gave his crew some positive remarks.
"We always here positive comments," DeMott said. "There are a lot people that travel the country and go to different Thomas events throughout the year. We catch a few comments from them and we have been told that it is one of the best run Thomas events in the country."