Topeka railroad festival plans fun for all ages

This Saturday, families will have a chance to come out to the Great Overland Station and experience the 5th Annual Topeka Railroad Festival.

Bette Allen, executive director of the Great Overland Station, said that in 2005 she was asked if Topeka Railroad Days would come back.  With the station not having the ground space like Topeka Railroad Days did out in Forbes Field, it didn’t originally seem possible to do the event.

“A little boy and his dad came into the station one day and the dad was telling the boy how cool Topeka Railroad Days was and how he wanted to bring it back.  The little boy was fascinated by his dad’s stories and it was that little boy who loved trains that inspired me,” said Allen.

Allen said the first year had about 1,300 people show up.

“It was small with a few vendors and a concert,” said Allen.  “We expanded in the second year, not having a concert but having more vendors and entertainment.”

According to Allen, the reception of the festival has been positive since its return.

“I hear a lot of positive feedback from people telling me that they are glad we have the Topeka Railroad Festival,” said Allen.  “There is something similar to the concept of Topeka Railroad Days and each year I hear parents say that their kids look forward to it each year.”

Allen said that it is important for Topeka to continue to have a railroad festival, because it is an activity that is fun for the whole family and has something for everybody.

“Both kids and adults love trains and we want to make sure we can keep the trains alive for the kids and adults,” said Allen.

Planning for the festival begins immediately after the last year’s festival has ended.

“As soon as the festival is over, we go over and evaluate, start planning and scheduling for the upcoming year,” said Allen.  “We try to add something different each year to keep people coming back.”

The gates will open for the festival at 9:30 a.m. and will close at 4:30 p.m.  Tickets are $6 per person and kids 2 and under are free.  The Great Overland Station is located at 701 North Kansas Ave.  There is expected to be about six different vendors, a variety of food, a trackless train that will take kids around the grounds of the station, and other fun activities for the children.

Allen said the most rewarding thing she gets out of the railroad festival each year is seeing all the kids having a lot of fun.