BRANCHVILLE -- The 49th Annual Raylrode Daze Festivul kicks off this Sunday, Sept. 17 and will run through Sunday, Sept. 24, in the town of Branchville. The festival will once again feature children's carnival rides, lively music and dancing, a variety of foods and the always-popular performances of the Branch Junction Can Can Girls and Gunfighters.
The family-friendly festival is an annual celebration of the rich rail heritage of Branchville, which is known as the world's oldest railroad junction.
The festival will hit full stride at 12 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22 when opening ceremonies are held in front of the town's Depot.
The ceremony will include a welcome address by Mayor Glenn Miller and remarks by Grand Marshal Jerry Thompson and Honorary Conductor Amy Bryant, along with appearances by the 2017 Miss Raylrode Junction Court.
Tom Jennings, Farmers & Merchants vice president/branch manager, will also greet festival goers during the ceremony. As president of the Raylrode Daze Festivul Committee since 2001, Jennings said he couldn't have done it without the support of the committee and other volunteers.
Those attending this year's Raylrode Daze can expect loads of entertainment at the festival, which has become a lot like a family reunion, he said.
"Most of the time there's something going on on the stage. Lots of time you'll see people that you haven't seen since last Raylrode Daze. People sit in the same spots every year. It's kind of like church and ballgames, when you sit about the same place every year. And its' just become a tradition," Jennings said.
The town's museum, which is filled with railroad memorabilia, is located in the area called Branch Junction, where the majority of the festival's entertainment will be presented, he said.
"The museum is a very good testament of our heritage. It's got a lot of railroad artifacts in it. The ticket office is still there ... and our dining room is extremely popular. A local family operates the eatery at The Depot there, but in years past, it was booming with passengers that came to eat," Jennings said. "Three U.S. presidents dined in that dining room."
Following Friday's opening ceremonies, carnival rides, arts and crafts and food and drink concessions, along with the Cal Smoak Special, will start up at 2 p.m. and run until midnight. Entertainment will be presented from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., including performances by the Can Can Girls, the Gunfighters and the Kangaroo Court.
Street dances and bands will be featured from 8 p.m. until midnight on Friday.
Raylrode Daze will jump into high gear on Saturday with the parade lineup starting at 9 a.m. Registration of entries will be at Horton Field.
The parade will kick off at 11 a.m., traveling down Main Street and disbanding at the old Branchville High School. Trophies for the winning parade entries will be awarded at 1 p.m. on stage in Branch Junction.
Activities throughout Saturday will include a children's costume contest, spike driving contests for kids and adults, a womanless beauty pageant and more performances by the Can Can Girls, the Gunfighters and the Kangaroo Court.
Music by various bands will get folks dancing in the street from 8 p.m. to midnight.
On Sunday, Sept. 24, visitors are invited to attend area church services at 11 a.m.
Wrapping up this year's festival on Sunday will be a hay bale stacking competition and additional performances by the Can Can Girls and the Gunfighters from 3:30 to 4 p.m.
Closing ceremonies are set for 5 p.m.
Jennings said everyone is welcome to come out and enjoy the festival. Anyone wishing to participate in the parade can contact him by phone at 803-682-1736.