RAILRODE DAZE in Branchville, SC
We are parked at a set which looks more like one for a western movie, but these structures were erected as part of the annual celebration of Railroad Days in historic Branchville, S.C. Branchville became the first railroad junction in the U.S. It was along the first ever scheduled train route in the U.S. which began in 1833.
The original depot burned down in 1995. Owing to the Branchiville's significant place in railroad history, local folks built this set which is used for festivities each year. The event is actually called "Railrode Daze" which we take to be a folksy spelling rather than a reflection on the public education system of South Carolina. The annual shindig is not restricted to historians or academic types, it's an open house for all. In fact, serious and decorous students of history will want to bypass "Railrode Daze" because it's largely a recreation and tourist attraction with rides on miniature trains, concessions with candy apples, hot dogs and a local favorite, elephant ears. ( Note: No animals are ever hurt in the making of elephant ears as this is a confection made from sweet dough and several proprietary ingredients ).
The whole thing is, of course, a device to attract people to Branchville, a promotional gesture. There had been very little else during the year to cause anyone to return there. An increasing number of small towns in the state are making efforts to restore their downtown areas, the former centers of commerce and community mingling. We're not certain that "Railrode Daze" will inspire heavy commercial investment, but it's encouraging the urban renewal trend just a bit these days. We love railroads and we're increasingly interested in and hopeful for these little towns to regenerate their downtown sections. The festival draws a lot of local people together and this is helpful in reminding them of that sense of community one simply does not have in a suburban world.
The "Daze" phase of the festival may come from the celebratory boozing which is an attached tradition. The guests tend to knock back a good bit during the day. There are trinkets, do-dads and sundry souvenirs to be collected here, but the best thing you can take when leaving the festival is a designated driver.