“I’ve jumped trains once or twice,” said Jimmy Johnson, a Branchville native who now lives in Murrells Inlet.
“But it was only in last-ditch efforts to get to Orangeburg from Branchville. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s something that makes me ‘me,’” Johnson said as he snacked on an “alligator kabob” and “twisty chips” at the 45th annual Raylrode Daze Festivul on Saturday.
Branchville, whose most-noted historical claim to fame is that it is home to the “world’s oldest railroad junction,” stays right on track each year drawing thousands folks to the rural Orangeburg County town to participate in contests, including spike driving, hay bale stacking, a womanless beauty pageant — and other entertaining events including carnival rides, arts and crafts vendors, old-fashioned “gunfights,” Kangaroo Court, street dances, bands, cancan girls and more.
Johnson said Raylrode Daze does a great job of offering a variety of activities, but his favorite character is “Filthy McDirty,” one of the original “gunfighters.”
“He’s an outlaw, alright. He’s a silly one at that,” Johnson said.
Johnson also enjoys the street dances in the evening.
Accompanying Johnson was his girlfriend, Rita Harley, who calls Branchville her home.
Harley enjoys checking out the wares on display and for sale offered by various vendors.
“There aren’t as many vendors as there used to be,” Harley said.
With Branchville as her hometown, Harley said she’s not only proud that she grew up attending Raylrode Daze but she’s also grateful to assist her mother, Kathy Rivers, who’s donated her time and resources in preparing meals for the additional law enforcement officers who provide additional security and traffic control during the annual festival.
“It’s just part of giving back to your hometown and saying ‘thank you,’” Harley said.
Donna Anderson, of the Williams community in neighboring Colleton County, has been coming to the event for nearly 40 straight years.
“I’m 50 now. I’ve come here since I was 11 years old,” she said.
Anderson said in years past, she brought her two children to the Raylrode Daze Festivul and now she’s thankful to bring her grandson, Logan Wiggins, 4, to the event.
“After working all week, coming to Raylrode Daze on Saturday is a nice change,” Anderson said, “it’s something fun for fall.”
Janet Hall of Branchville, with longtime friend Judy Wall of Hampton, attended the festivities as well.
“I remember my first Raylrode Daze Festivul. I was 7,” Hall said.
“The ladies wore long dresses and bonnets and the guys were in overalls, railroad hats, and red bandanas,” she said.
While there is a costume contest that is part of current Raylrode Daze Festivul events, Hall said it was common, decades ago, for men and women to attend the festival dressed in old-timey country attire and in keeping with the “railroad town” theme.
Hall said she misses the old traditions of the Raylrode Daze Festivul, but she looks forward to reuniting with friends and family who take time to enjoy family friendly events offered in Branchville year after year.
For more information about Branchville’s Railroad and Shrine Museum, drop by on Fridays and Saturdays between 10 a.m.–2 p.m. or on Sundays from 2–5 p.m.
Tours are available by calling Branchville Town Hall, 803-274-8820.
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