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Rail Fest: Rising star among state's tourist attractionsTell North Platte what you think
Photo by Floydene Brown
Nebraskaland Foundation President Larry Ruth, at left, presents the award to Dave Harrold. Looking on is Rail Fest organizer Gloria Tyan, at left, Susan Williams and Rail Fest organizer Shawn Gartrell.
Photo by Floydene Brown
Don Kurre

North Platte's annual Rail Fest was honored Friday as a Rising Star in the list of Nebraska’s major attraction.

The weekend festival was the creation of Original Town chairman Dave Harrold in 2007, at the urging of North Platte business owners Ken and Connie Bible.

The Rising Star award is presented each year by the Nebraskaland Foundation. The foundation was organized in 1962 under the leadership of Gov. Frank Morrison. It was the forerunner to many of Nebraska’s current economic development and tourism activities, the foundation says on its website.

Susan Williams of North Platte is a board member of the Nebraskaland Foundation.

The Nebraskaland Foundation’s mission is to promote Nebraska through programs and awards that celebrate the state’s social, historical, cultural, educational and economic heritage. The Rising Star Award recognizes tourism attractions or significant expansions to existing attractions and efforts in economic and social development. 

The idea of Rail Fest came from a Sunday morning conversation over coffee between Ken and Connie Bible. They sat together, as is their custom, visiting about life, family and business, when Ken came up with an idea.

“Rail Fest,” he said.

“What are you thinking?” Connie Bible asked.

Ken, a rabid rail buff, (also known as ‘a foamer’) suggested a couple events that would be part of a citywide railroad festival.

“I bet we’d have quite a crowd. There are a lot of people like me,” he told Connie, whose eyes lit up.

That’s how the idea for the festival began, Connie said. The Bibles went to an Original Town meeting (of north side residents) and pitched the idea.

“‘I really think it’s time that North Platte celebrated the railroad – big time,” Connie told them.

“Like so many good ideas, it grows,” said Dave Harrold, who chairs the Original Town committee. “Eventually it gets its own life.”

Rail Fest showcases the world’s busiest railroad corridor that runs through the Platte Valley, carrying 140 trains during an average 24-hour day. Bailey Yard, the world’s largest rail classification yard, covers 2,850 acres and processes 10,000 rail cars a day.

Rail Fest offers tours of locomotives, rail cars and Bailey Yard, plus a model train show, plus kids games all over Cody Park, places to shop, live entertainment, displays at the park and at the yard, fitness runs and biker rides, all showcasing the intriguing work that is done in Bailey Yard’s departments and celebrating the men and women who run the railroad.

The celebration of railroads, especially the world’s largest railroad in North Platte, is linked with efforts to revitalize the north side of North Platte.

The value of Union Pacific is immeasurable, organizers say. Beside paychecks and economic contributions of the company, thousands of employees serve as coaches, volunteers, businesspeople and civic leaders.

“We want to say how much we appreciate that,” Harrold said as the first Rail Fest got underway.

Harrold and Don Kurre, the chairman of the Rail Fest celebration, accepted the Rising Star award Friday during a Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours get-together at Adams Bank and Trust.

Rail Fest joined the company of other attractions -- The Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island, the Nebraska Holocaust Memorial in Lincoln, the Holy Family Shrine in Gretna, Wessel’s Living History Farm in York, Monsanto’s Water Utilization Learning Center near Gothenburg, and the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles in Lexington.

The Golden Spike observation tower and visitor’s center in North Platte received the Rising Star award in 2008.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 2/21/2014
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