Day Out with Thomas draws thousands

CALERA – Families traveled from near and far to enjoy A Day Out with Thomas at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum from Friday through Sunday, April 13-15.

In addition to riding Thomas the Tank Engine, others attractions included miniature golf, inflatables, a pavilion with live music, an imagination station, a bubble station, photos with Sir Topham Hat, a Thomas the Train merchandise tent, concessions and more, said Railroad museum president and CEO James Garnett.

“There’s an area where we have a storybook reading and the kids can watch a Thomas video,” Garnett said. “There’s so much to do, you can come early and stay late.”

Over the three-day period Garnett said he expected 10,000 to 11,000 people to attend the event.

“It’s a big job to put it on and it’s extremely labor intensive,” Garnett said. “We prepped for two weeks for this event.”

Renee Chandler and her family traveled from Troy to attend the event.

“We’ve made the trip every year for seven years,” she said as her 8-year-old daughter, Ally, sat beside her eating a giant ball of cotton candy. “My kids are Thomas fans and it’s a fun, family-friendly atmosphere. The fact that we can bring our 8-year-old and 3-year-old out here and they both can enjoy it is a big deal.”

Although riding the train is the highlight of the trip, Chandler said her kids also love to play in the sand pit and at the bubble station.

“There’s so much to do,” she said. “We just love the whole facility. We come out here off and on for other activities and it’s just a fun place.”

Dreama Tingle of Montevallo said she liked that the event included volunteers with special needs at some of the activity stations.

“My son is autistic and I just love that they included people with special needs,” she said. “There’s so much outreach and it’s very inclusive. It’s an event that boys, girls and kids with special needs can enjoy.”

Tingle said she and her family enjoy the event every year they come.

“It’s something that spans generations, but it’s also great because it brings people to the railroad museum. There’s so much history and so much for kids to learn in a place like this.”

See more photos from this event at Shelbycountyphotos.com.