The 2019 ExTRAINaganza was one of the most successful shows we have sponsored at the Great Falls Model Railroad Club in the eleven years it has been held. Good publicity from the Lewiston Sun Journal, the Twin City Times and all editions of the Turner Publishing monthly newspapers attracted many of those who attended. Our website, Facebook, emails and signs were also mentioned by several people.
On the day before the ExTRAINaganza started, Daryn Slover from the Sun Journal came to the club, took pictures and interviewed some of the club members who were setting up for the event. His article was published on Saturday morning, the first day of the ExTRAINaganza. He came again on Saturday with another Sun Journal reporter and they talked with several families. Their story and photos were published in Sunday’s Lewiston Sun Journal and the Kennebec Journal in Augusta.
Our goal has been to have at least one hundred paying guests at the ExTRAINaganza each day. On three of the four days this year, we had more than one hundred adults. Sunday’s attendance was less than thirty because of the cold rain and threatening weather forecast. Even a week later, however, people still said they came because of the newspaper articles. More than half of them had never been to the club before.
When visitors enter the building, the large G-gauge layout catches everyone’s attention. It’s the “WOW” factor that introduces them to the club. The “Magnificent Seven” had prepared the layout weeks in advance to be sure that it would run smoothly during the four-day event. Dick Clark and John Middleton supervised the layout for the entire four days, with help from Dave Kierstead and Ray Parent on the first day of the ExTRAINaganza.
It’s always nice to have something new. This year we had received a large donation of Lionel equipment from club member Dick Proctor. George Pitchard and Carl Butland utilized the benchwork, track, buildings, and transformer to build a new layout in the area where we once had the conference table. Steve Doughty helped them during the ExTRAINaganza, and the track worked flawlessly for the entire four days. Some club members brought in trains that had not run for years and tried them out on the tracks. The members may have had even more fun than the visitors.
One of the club’s objectives is to entertain the children under 12 years old. After children write their names on paper locomotives, they pin them on the painted “Christmas Tree.” The total number of locomotives was 231. For the first time, a special Christmas tree was set up so that children could choose a colorful ornament and place it on the tree. Some of them enjoyed it so much, they placed several balls on the tree.
Tables were set up for different activities. More than 125 gingerbread cookies were decorated with frosting made by Rick James, and most were eaten before they left the building. More than seventy-five wreaths and candy cane were created, using tri-beads and pipe cleaners. Nearly eighty-five spice ornaments were decorated with colorful glitter glue. They can use these for many years to decorate their home Christmas trees as a memory of our ExTRAINaganza.
The games available for the children were also popular. More than eighty-five played the “Hoop a Caboose” game, and more than two hundred played “Roundhouse Roulette.” Many of the prizes used for the games were little ornaments made by Terry Obie. The night after the first day, she made 75 more in which she enclosed a chocolate candy. Terry also contributed many Christmas ornaments which were sold at a separate table.
When the children went downstairs to the extensive HO layout, they could sign up to run a train. More than 150 children were guest engineers on the HO layout this year.
The “Square-foot” contest models made by the children from Spikey’s Station were on display and made an interesting conversation starter. Many families took flyers promoting Spikey Station. While children were doing crafts and younger children were playing with the Brio layout or the trains on the rug, adults could watch the trains on the television nearby.
On the last day of the show, club members Roger and Martha Feeley made a generous donation of about $1,000 worth of new, unopened trains designed to run on Brio track. Many of them were in the Thomas the Tank Engine series. This is a substantial contribution and is really appreciated by the club. The items were immediately put out for sale with price tags, and several items were sold by the end of the day. Thank you, Roger and Martha!
Pot-luck lunches were provided by several club members and there was a wide variety of food. Hobo Chef Jerry Johnston added his expert help on the last day. It is difficult having to deny guests a chance to eat with us, but we do not have a license to sell food that we cook. However, we did have chocolate chip cookies available which were donated by Governor’s Bakery and Restaurant in Lewiston. We thank Governor’s for continuing to support our annual ExTRAINaganza.
About forty club members came to help for at least part of one day of the four-day ExTRAINaganza. Nearly every area of the building was well supervised for the first two days. During the last two days after Thanksgiving, however, we really needed more help everywhere. Club members who parked their cars at Goodman’s made parking space available for visitors who attended the show. Thanks to everyone who helped make this year’s ExTRAINaganza a success!