A hometown crowd of all ages turned out for the 11th annual Railroad Day celebration this past Saturday, Sept. 21.
The event was hosted by the Pacific Partnership.
With balmy 73-degree weather, patrons enjoyed the country fair atmosphere in Pacific Station Plaza on South First Street.
Booth setup began at 10 a.m. for the noon opening, but patrons began to trickle in at 11 a.m. following the Pacific High School homecoming parade through downtown. This created an early, long line at the Partnership booth.
Brian Knight emceed the opening ceremony, which included the JROTC trooping the colors and leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
By noon, the Plaza, which was developed by the Partnership as a train-watching venue, was a sea of pop-up-tent booths, a large tent with picnic tables, children’s bounce house, a row of antique tractors and a steady flow of patrons.
Jim Schwinkendorf, retired BNSF executive and past president of the Pacific Partnership who was one of the early organizers of the annual Railroad Day celebration, took to the stage to remind people to stay as far from the moving trains as possible.
Jeff Schmid, retired BNSF rail crossing safety manager, assisted with flip card photos.
“If you see a train coming toward you, it might be helpful to know how much distance that trains needs to stop,” Schwinkendorf said. “A train traveling at 55 miles per hour pulling 6,000 tons takes a mile to stop, and that’s with the emergency brake on.
“A train that applies the brake here at First Street will make it to the Payne Street crossing before coming to a full stop.”
As a response to the crush of early patrons, event Chair Monica Mahler helped to man the Pacific Partnership food booth, which was swamped for the first two hours of the event.
Specialty booths circled the Plaza, including ring designs, offering high-end cooking gear, scented candles, wallets, body wraps, handmade jewelry, country specialties and even a local honey producer.
Jenny Devine with Pacific has Talent welcomed nine competitors, including a two magicians, a pianist, five singers and a three-man band to compete.
Judges Francine Lindemann and Renee Wigger gave the top honor to 27-year-old Sarah Robinson, who sang “If I Ain’t Got You.”
Second place went to pianist, 12-year-old Cole Suterer, who played Linus and Lucy. Twelve-year-old Kaitlin Guelbert captured third place with an a capella version of “Titanium.” Critiquing the winners, emcee Knight said the judges made good choices.
“Kaitlin was pretty amazing,” Knight said. “She started out a little shaky and just kept getting stronger and stronger to a smashing finish.”
The pianist was much better than even the judges knew, Knight said later.
“Due to a glitch, his amp was not connected to the Partnership mike so the audience didn’t get the full impact of his playing.”
Robinson, Knight said, almost seemed too good to be true, sounding more like a studio produced CD than a live outdoor performance.
“I want to reassure you that what you heard was not a recording,” Knight told the large audience. “That was Sarah singing every note.”
Along the north boundary of the Plaza, adjacent to the railroad tracks, a recently restored 1953 Ford Golden Jubilee Model 600 was flanked by two red Allis-Chalmers and five green and yellow John Deere models in the traditional antique tractor display.
The white and red tractor, adorned with a unique emblem, was released as part of the 50th anniversary of Ford Motor Company.
Two bands also played, including Risen, a Christian praise band with local musician Tommy Glass, and Big House, a country, rap and rock group that closed out the entertainment.