Railroad Days Festival Returns

Kathy Clayton

The Ashland Beacon


   The Russell Railroad Days Festival is returning to downtown Russell June 7-8, featuring the popular spike-driving contest and a new attraction this year, the Fortnite Duos Tournament.

   “We skipped last year because we were short-handed,” said city clerk Joy Conley. “Several people were out sick, and we have to keep the streets cleaned, keep an eye on what’s going on.”

   Mayor Ron Simpson said he’s excited about this year’s event. “Our goal is to make this a good family-oriented festival. We want to have something for all ages. The spike-driving contest is a big thing. We’ll have one heat on Friday and the finals on Saturday. Life Song Church is doing kids games and activities. We’re having a watermelon eating contest.”

   The city is looking for more vendors to sign up for the festival – “anything but food,” the mayor said. He said the fee for vendors to register is $25, and if they stay for both Friday and Saturday, the fee will be refunded. Donations to help support the festival are also welcome, he noted. Food and beer will be provided by El Colonial Mexican Restaurant.

   Festivities will open Friday, June 7, with Vinessa Fressola performing the national anthem for the

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opening ceremonies. Both days will feature live music, games, contests, vendors, inflatables, food and more. Friday’s events include the cornhole tournament at 4, with Rob McNurlin performing at 5 p.m. The first heat of the railroad spike-driving contest begins at 6 p.m. Music by local band Carrier begins at 7 p.m.

   Saturday kicks off with the Run by the River, an annual 5K and 10K race that’s now in its 42nd year, according to Tom Saylor of the East Greenup Kiwanis Club, which sponsors the race. Saylor said each participant will get a T-shirt, and prizes and ribbons will be awarded. Proceeds are used to fund the Kiwanis Club’s youth activities and scholarships. “We’ll assemble at the Senior Center on Belfont Street, and race winds through downtown Russell, along the river to Worthington and back.”

   Saturday will also feature a Cruise-In car show from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. The cruise-in will include drawings for door prizes, and the grand prize of a 55-inch Samsung smart TV. One ticket will be issued for each car entered. For more information on the car show, contact Terry Fryer at 606.928.5328.

   The cornhole tournament will continue at 3:30, followed by the finals of the spike-driving contest at 5 p.m. Musical acts on Saturday include Joe Jarrell at 5:30, Larry Pancake at 7, and Hale and High Water at 9 p.m.

   While the majority of activities take place outdoors, the Fortnite tournament will be held in the city building, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday. Teams can register online until 9 a.m. Saturday, and at the tournament that morning. They will set up four Play Station and four Xbox consoles, and teams can choose which they’d prefer.

   “We think this will bring in more kids and families,” said tournament organizer Jeremy Holbrook. “It should be a pretty decent tournament. We expect we’ll end up with about a hundred participants.” Mayor Simpson also is excited about the Fortnite tournament. “We want to offer something new for people.”

   Holbrook’s business NextLevel606, a gaming center in the Kyova Mall, will be setting up the tournament. It’s a single elimination tournament, divided into age groups of K-5th grade, middle school, high school, and adult and mixed team players. Winners will receive trophies and gift cards, $75 for first place, $50 for second, $25 for third, and a two-hour pass to NextLevel606 for fourth.

   “In the state of Kentucky, 44 counties have ESports teams in the schools,” Holbrook said, adding that ESports are governed by the Kentucky High School Athletics Association, just like any other sport. Locally, Greenup County has a team, and Fairview is planning one for next year, he said. “Over 140 colleges offer scholarships for gaming. Shawnee in Portsmouth in third in the country. I believe it will help put more kids in college over the next few years.”             

   Conley said the city would like to thank Bridges Christian Church for providing help in sprucing up the downtown area in preparation for Railroad Days. She noted that a donor had provided funds to buy flowers to decorate the streets.

   In an effort to get more young people involved in Railroad Days, a contest was held for Russell middle and high school students to create a design for t-shirts to be worn by the festival workers. The winner had not been chosen at press time.

   Simpson said the goal for the future is to incorporate more railroad activities in Railroad Days. He said that once the city is deeded the property around the old bridge and the park enhanced, there will be space for more activities.

   “We just want this to be a festival for friends and family to get together and have a good time,” the mayor said.

   The city of Russell thanks sponsors of the event, including Community Trust Bank, Clark’s Pump ‘n’ Shop, Curt Robinson State Farm Insurance, Van Antwerp Attorneys, Cartee Land Development, Glockner Enterprises, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, Members Choice Credit Union, Great Lakes Minerals, Greenup County Federal Credit Union, and Mildred Dowdy.

   For more information about Railroad Days, contact the city of Russell at 606.836.9666.