Railroad Days organizers have no doubt collapsed in a heap after their duties were completed, but they can congratulate themselves on a job well done.
Railroad Days went regional this year, extending to Nakoma, Graeagle and Blairsden and bringing in 500 visitors by train, many of whom had never been in the area before. Railroad Days chairperson Donna Mills and treasurer Cindy Wood appeared at the Aug. 25 city council meeting to review the event.
Mills said, "It was very well received. The businesses did well, the visitors enjoyed themselves, and the vendors did well. I really want to thank the city and the council members who fronted us the money so we could do a really good job promoting this."
She and Wood agreed, while all the figures were not tallied, they believed they would end in the black financially for the first time - maybe ever.
Mayor John Larrieu said he spent time listening to comments of those riding the buses between events, most of whom came on the train, and found the comments positive and heartening. The people, he said, came from all over the country and even overseas and most had never been to this area before.
Council member Bill Kennedy said, "It's the first time it has come to my attention that it was not just Portola but area-wide. I can't think of anything better for this whole end of the county than to have everyone working together."
City Manager Jim Murphy agreed and added he believed that the Community Kick-off Picnic was very successful. The city had fed nearly 700 people, which was much more effective than a dinner at Memorial Hall that only fed about 70 people.
Railroad Days is an opportunity for area social groups and service organizations to raise funds. Most of them take the opportunity and have booths or events like the Rotary breakfast to add to the mix, but Wood pointed out that the youth groups, who manned the bounce house and provided service during many of the events, also made money by receiving a percentage of the money collected.
She had paid out checks to Catholic Youth Group, the high school cheerleaders, Youth on Fire, "S" Club and Feather River College students.
There are also many competitions and drawings held during Railroad Days. This year's parade-winning float was Portola High School boys' soccer, which received $100. Rotary Club won the traveling trophy and second place in the float division; Sierra Cascade Street Rodders came in third.
Brightwater Music and Fine Arts took first place in traveling bands. Kim Hillyard Dance took first place in unmounted novelty groups, and Portola Preschool took second.
Faith Henderson took first in individual novelty junior division while Curt McBride, the stiltman, took first in the senior division.
PHS cheerleaders took first place in the junior walking group, while the Soroptimists took first in the senior walking groups, with Feather River softball team taking second.
Oregano drove off with first place honors in the auto category, White Sierra Station's 1930 Rat Rod came in second, and Bristow Family's 1927 Model T came in third.
In the Special Interest vehicle category, the 1941 Storrie Retreat fire engine came in first and the Portola Fire Department in second, and the Beckwourth Fire Department took third.
The Bi-State Propane truck painted pink for breast cancer awareness took first in the commercial category.
American Valley Speedway took first in the motorcycle category. Joy Engineering took first and second in the horse-drawn category for its stagecoach and covered wagon, respectively.
Last but not least, Terry Swofford and his pooper-scooper took first in the candidate category.
The third annual Iron Man Spike Driving Contest attracted eight professional railroaders and one amateur. The Union Pacific employees shone and walked away with all the honors.
First-place Jeff Instness drove in his spike in 18.95 seconds, with 22 seconds by Sal Soriano (who won last year's contest at 14.25 seconds) placing second; third place was occupied by Shawn Norden.
The Willie A. Tate Memorial Run produced 85 runners and a long list of winners, which can be found in the Sports & Recreation section of this issue.
Even more winners came out of the button drawing, and at press time at least 30 drawing prizes were unclaimed. Check at city hall for your button number and claim your prize.
The first-place winner in the Lucky Duck Race down the Feather River was Preston Wilson, who won $500. Little Preston is less than a year old so he is off to a great start, thanks to his doting great-aunt Linda Johnson who bought the ticket.
Second, $200, went to Sue Miller, and Marsha Albright went home $100 richer with her third-place winnings.
This year's Railroad Days was arguably the best ever; certainly it was the most diverse. The Feather River Express brought a host of new people to the area (see the front of Regional) and the Stars in the Barn performance was a dazzler unlike anything seen in this area before. (See next week's issue for pictures and report of that performance.)
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