November 27, 2014

Depot Days loses feature attraction

courtesy photo
This steam engine, the 1225, the inspiration for the movie "The Polar Express," has been a Depot Days staple but won't be seen at this year's festival.
By Tim Barnum
Staff writer
Posted

STANDISH — The masses attending Depot Days at the Standish Historical Depot and Welcome Center this year will not get the usual morning greeting from an enormous steam locomotive pulling up to the depot.

In fact, people attending Depot Days won’t see the steam locomotive at all.

Curt Hillman, chairman of the Arenac Heritage Route Authority, the group responsible for coordinating Depot Days, says due to insurance reasons, Lake State Railway will not send a steam locomotive to the Standish Depot or give train rides, as in past Depot Days.

Hillman says the refusal to run trains is due to “track conditions, I think, more than anything else.”

However, the chairman did say the three-day festival won’t be completely devoid of train-related attractions.

He says he approached Lake State about having some train cars present.

“Can we at least have a static display?” Hillman said he asked Lake State Railway representatives.

He says he got some results.

“I’m quite certain we’ll have at least two cars here,” Hillman added.

He says a dining car and an upper scale coach car will be parked on the tracks behind the depot and a meal will possibly be served on the dinner car.

And the AHRA did get some good news regarding Depot Days amid the disappointing news of the loss of its main attraction.

“We got permission at least this year, to close (M) 61 from Friday night through Sunday night,” Hillman said. “They (Michigan Department of Transportation) were not going to let us close down 61 from Front Street to (US) 23.”

And since the massive steam engine that had viewers oohing and ahhing won’t be seen this year, Hillman says the AHRA stepped up the entertainment aspect of Depot Days.

Tim Dixon, head of the Depot Days entertainment committee, says he wanted to bring in some bands from out-of-town that have established followings. One band he booked is Saginaw’s Jedi Mind Trip (JMT).

Dixon says he has seen Jedi play in the past.

“They were phenomenal,” Dixon said, adding he knew they would be a good fit for Depot Days. “I brought it (booking JMT) up originally at an entertainment committee meeting. … They’re going to kick it (live music) off for us Friday night, 8 (p.m.) to 12 (a.m.).”

Dixon didn’t only look out of town, though.

“We still want to sick with a lot of local entertainment as well,” he said.

For some up and coming local musicians, the committee booked Point Blank and Axis, two bands made up of area rockers that’ll play at Depot Days on Saturday.

But the festival dedicated to the historical depot will be offering up more just music for head bangers.

“Sunday we’re marketing as a classic country and gospel day,” Dixon said, adding in past Depot Days, the crowd on Sunday was quite smaller than the previous days’ due to church attendance. “This year we’re going to cater to that crowd.”

Dixon says his entertainment company, Diversity Entertainment, will be providing a disc jockey (DJ) for entertainment during the day on Saturday and Sunday as well.

Of course, all the entertainment doesn’t come without a price but Dixon didn’t wish to say specifically how much money the committee or the AHRA spent.

“Our bill’s going to be well into the thousands,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the local businesses we wouldn’t be able to pull this off. … They’re (bands) all getting paid from sponsorships.”

And as the fourth annual Depot Days comes closer, it appears not too many people are complaining about the absence of the steam locomotive.

“People seem to be excited about a nice festival finally hitting this town,” Dixon said.

Depot Days runs from Friday, Oct. 3 through Sunday, Oct. 5. For more information, call 989-718-3021.

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