BRANCHVILLE -- The big day has arrived.

Branchville has been alive with events this week for the 49th annual Raylrode Daze Festivul but nothing compares to today. Following Friday’s opening ceremonies, Saturday will feature big crowds and a full lineup of events.

Saturday schedule

  • 9:30 a.m. -- Parade lineup, with registration at Horton Field
  • 11 a.m. -- Parade begins
  • 1 p.m.-midnight -- Children's carnival rides, Cal Smoak Special rides, arts and crafts and concessions
  • 12:30 p.m. (immediately after parade) -- Branch Junction Stage, awarding of parade trophies
  • 1 p.m. -- Entertainment in Branch Junction
  • 2 p.m. -- Can Can Girls
  • 2:15 p.m. -- Kangaroo Court
  • 2:30 p.m. -- Gunfighters
  • 3 p.m. -- Kids' Costume Contest judging
  • 3:30 p.m. -- Kids' Spike Driving Contest
  • 4 p.m. -- Adults Spike Driving Contest
  • 4:30 p.m. -- Womanless Beauty Pageant
  • 5 p.m. -- Can Can Girls
  • 5:15 p.m. -- Kangaroo Court
  • 5:30 p.m. -- Gunfighters
  • 7 p.m. -- Can Can Girls
  • 7:15 p.m. -- Kangaroo Court
  • 7:30 p.m. -- Gunfighters
  • 8 p.m.-midnight -- Street dances, bands

The festival concludes on Sunday with events in the afternoon centered around Branch Junction before closing ceremonies at 5 p.m.

A little history

For those visiting for first time or veterans of the Festivul, here’s a quick review.

Branchville commemorates its place in history as the home of the World’s Oldest Railroad Junction on the last full weekend in September by presenting the Raylrode Daze Festivul.

Historic Branch Junction – “a little town within a town” -- was built in the early 1970s by local men as a backdrop for the popular mock gunfights staged for the festival.

In the first festival in 1969, as a form of entertainment, a group of local men decided to do a mock robbery of the town’s bank. As the villains came out of the bank, they were met by the sheriff and his deputies. An old-time western shoot-out ensued and led to the continuation of the mock gunfights every year.

As the festival grew, so did Branch Junction. Each year a few more buildings were added. Eventually, a Grand Hotel complete with a stage for entertainment was added, along with a blacksmith shop that was mostly used for storage, giving Branch Junction the appearance of an Old West town.

As the years passed, the buildings required maintenance and occasionally some had to be torn down and rebuilt. During Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the top of the stage was blown off, but the festival went on.

In 2007, the blacksmith shop and the saloon were destroyed by fire. Some items used for the festival were also lost, along with many of the photographs from past festivals.

Then in 2008, a devastating tornado ripped through Branchville, demolishing Branch Junction.

Many townspeople began working to secure funding to rebuild the venue. Funds from grants through the county and state were obtained, and a new Branch Junction rose and was ready for the festival that September.

Today, Branch Junction consists of buildings that are rented to festival vendors to sell their wares during Raylrode Daze. They include arts and crafts and concessions space, a jail, a sheriff’s office, a funeral parlor and a saloon. The stage in Branch Junction showcases festival entertainers each year.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter @DionneTandD.

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