Thursday, June 9, 2011

Manassas Railway Festival draws thousands Manassas Railway Festival draws thousands
This report is from June 4, so you've all missed it. Just mark it on your calendars for next year!

Blessed by a beautiful, sunny day with comfortable temperatures, throngs of people came into Old Town Manassas for the 17th annual Manassas Heritage Railway Festival.

The festivities included elaborate model train displays, the VRE Excursion Train to Clifton and back, live entertainment, food concessions, rides and vendors of “railroadmania."

The temperature was in contrast to last year when temperatures got into the high 90s and crowds left early.

Debbie Haight, executive director of Historic Manassas, Inc. summarized the day.

“It’s a great day for people to come out and have a lot fun — and the weatherman certainly cooperated with the nice weather.”

She estimated that upwards of 30,000 people would come out for the free event.
As usual, one of the most popular spots for the spectators were the model trains.
Brion Boyles, a member of the Prince William County Model Railroad Club, said he enjoys coming out each year to the festival.

“‘We are a real informal group of about 70 members who all love working with model trains. (The group has a permanent display set up in the Quantico Train Depot.

“We encourage children to get real close up looks at the trains... and even allow them to run them,” he said.

Seven-year-old Noble Tousha was among those fascinating by the trains.

“This a special day for me every year. I love trains, particularly the steam engines,” he said.

“We all love coming out every year, seeing the trains and taking a ride on the VRE,” said Alan and Robin Tousha.

Also riders on the VRE were Ron and Cindy Jacobs who brought their grandson Eli Mathis for his first train ride.

“He really had a great time... hearing the whistle and looking our of the window,” said Cindy Jacobs.

Ruth Gorgas of Manassas said she always made a special effort to get the festival “mainly to see the Lego train outfit.”

A children’s stage with both professional and local talent performed for the youth.
For those that wanted carnival-type games and food, the place to be was the Boy Scout Troop 670 area.

The troop, with about 35 Boy Scouts, manned booths that included ball toss, wac-a-mole, putting green, Q-ball and sponge toss.

The food available included popcorn, soda, juice and cotton candy.

Jim Sealock, assistant Scoutmaster, was overseeing the activities. He said the troop usually nets about $5,000 to $6,000 which is used to support the troop with needed supplies and scholarships to camps.

A separate area set up with traveling food kitchens included barbecues, crabcakes, shrimp, fried fish, Gyros, Italian Sausage, shaved ice, iced tea and lemonade.

Dave Hutton, owner of Nathans Dairy Bar said, “We have been selling a lot of ice cream cones and sundaes. “We always like to come out to events such as this and become a part of the community."

Mark Ingram, owner of Kona Ice of Virginia, echoed his thoughts.

His stand was offering 40 flavors of shaved ice — with customers able to cover their ice with any flavor they wanted by themselves.

“Ninety percent of our customers prefer to do their own topping ... with blue raspberry the most popular favor,” he said.

Vendors selling all types of railroad memorabilia were scattered through the area.
Among those was Travis Merickle who came all the way from Nashville to sell his railroad-themed T-shirt, mugs and hats.

“This is our fourth year we have been here. We enjoy coming... there is always a good crowd. Everyone seems super nice.”

A group of women dressed in period garb patrolled the grounds promoting the upcoming 150th Commemoration of the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run in July.

They included Sarah Harrover, Kathy Strauss, G. C. Scout, Sharon Owen and Nora Jewell.

The festival begins a season of events and activities planned in Manassas, including the seventh annual Wine and Jazz Festival on June 19, Fourth of July celebration and the 150th Civil War commemorations activities in July.

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