Despite rain affecting some turnout, this was a milestone year for the city of Truesdale and its Railroad Days festival, as the city was able to welcome people for the first time into a new community …
Despite rain affecting some turnout, this was a milestone year for the city of Truesdale and its Railroad Days festival, as the city was able to welcome people for the first time into a new community building at Bruer Park.
The nearly $2 million building took about 10 months to construct and still has a little work yet to be done, but area residents got their first look at the 6,300-square-foot facility as it comfortably hosted seating for concerts and small activities for the festival. The building, which doubles as a large storm shelter, is being paid for in part by a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In an opening ceremony that involved at least a few tears, Mayor Chris Watson unveiled that he and the board of aldermen decided to name the community building in honor of MaryLou Rainwater, Truesdale’s longtime city clerk and administrator. Watson thanked Rainwater for nearly four decades of service to the city and all the work she put into helping make the community building possible.
Rainwater, who is retiring this month, was completely unaware of the naming decision until aldermen and city staff unfurled a banner declaring the facility as the MaryLou Community Building. She said she felt deeply honored to have her name associated with a building in Bruer Park, which is named for much-respected former Truesdale Mayor Murray Bruer, who died in 2017.
The community building’s inaugural event hosted concerts by area musical group George Portz and the Friends of Bluegrass, as well as nationally known country singer Buddy Jewell.
Organizers for Railroad Days commented that hosting the festival on the first weekend of October might be inviting bad luck with the weather, as rain has affected turnout multiple times in the festival’s few years of existence.
Still, event organizer Elsa Smith-Fernandez said the rain didn’t put a damper on the vendors and families who stuck around until the sun came out in the afternoon.
“At the end of the day, I couldn’t stop smiling. ... I had so many people come to me and tell me how much fun they had,” Smith-Fernandez commented, observing that children were playing on bounce houses and doing activities despite the rain. And as soon as the clouds cleared, a steady stream of visitors populated the festival.
“Of course we wish the crowd were a little larger, but at the same time I felt like it was a lot more personable. There was some really good interaction with the people who were there. ... There was a really good sense of community,” Smith-Fernandez commented.
The objective of Railroad Days is to build that sense of community and also educate local residents about the history of Truesdale, which Smith-Fernandez said they achieved with educational scavenger hunts and prizes for tracking down facts scattered around the festival.
In the future, Smith-Fernandez said she will work with other Railroad Days planners on a more extensive rain plan. She also looks forward to seeing how final improvements to Bruer Park and the community building will enhance the festival.