BRANCHVILLE - Clicketty clack!

The 39th Annual Raylrode Daze Festivul is steaming full-throttle down the track and will be in Branchville next week, beginning with events at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, leading up to the blessing of the festival at 6 p.m.

This year's week-long festival will roll out of town on Sunday, Sept. 30.

Carrie Johnson, festival spokesperson, said guest minister for Sunday's event will be the Rev. Brian Gray of Mount Tabor Baptist Church in Branchville. Also participating will be the Rev. Grady Corder of Branchville United Methodist Church and a guest choir.

This year's Raylrode Daze, according to Johnson, is expected to attract between 6,000 and 10,000 people.

Jennifer Dufford Smith of Winterville, N.C., daughter of Tyler and Judy Dufford of Branchville, will serve as grand marshal for the 2007 Raylrode Daze Festivul. A 1990 graduate of Branchville High School, Smith earned her English degree at Newberry College and her master's degree in English at the College of Charleston's graduate school, the University of Charleston. She currently teaches upper school humanities at The Oakwood School in Winterville.

During her high school years, Smith was active in the Raylrode Daze Festivul as a Can-Can Girl.

Serving as this year's "honorary conductor" will be Thomas Wesley "Tommy" Connelly of Branchville, who performed with the Branchville Street Players and later with the Branch Junction Gunfighters in the 1970s.

Connelly celebrated 30 years of service with Norfolk Southern this summer. He began his railroad career as a brakeman/flagman and worked his way up to a conductor. In 1989, Connelly completed Engineers Training School and became a locomotive engineer.

A couple of years ago, he became qualified as a yard master and works part-time at Seven Mile Yard in Charleston and Andrew Yard in Columbia while still working as an engineer.

The 2007 Raylrode Junction Court includes Meagan Nicole Strock, Miss Raylrode Junction; Jaime Cooner, Teen Miss Raylrode Junction; Alexandra Virginia Bryant, Junior Miss Raylrode Junction; Alexis Smith, Young Miss Raylrode Junction, and Krystan Elizabeth Funchess, Little Miss Raylrode Junction.

Tom Jennings, Raylrode Daze president, said activities are planned for all ages, including a costume contest, a whistle blowing contest, a spike driving contest, a womanless beauty contest, parade, carnival rides, the Branch Junction Gunfighters, gospel music, a pet show, cloggers, rides on the Cal Smoak Special, street dances, arts and crafts and plenty of good food.

"We are expecting between 45 and 50 arts and crafts booths and between 20 and 25 food vendors," Jennings said. Among the bands expected to perform this year are the Edisto River Band, the Marxmen with Holly Dukes Dowdy and DJ C-L-O.

T&D Correspondent Bob Yandle can be reached by e-mail at Discuss this and other stories online at