On Oct. 18, less than a month from now, the group will gather to
begin plans for next year's event. Already there are plans to make
next year's 40th anniversary bigger and better than any previous.
Geoff Ladd, director of Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan
County, says many ideas are being proposed, and as soon as the
current board decides on additions to next year's festival, they
will advise the community.
The Railsplitting Festival began like so many other activities
and festivals: "I have a crazy idea," as Daris Knauer admits telling
tourism co-chairman LeRoy Buckheit in 1970. "LeRoy ran the burger
place on Woodlawn, and I came in one day and told him of my idea to
have a railsplitting festival. After all, Abe was a famous
rail-splitter and I thought it was a chance to promote local
tourism," Knauer recalled. He said LeRoy turned around with a burger
on his spatula and said he agreed that Knauer's idea was crazy: a
crazy idea that he and Daris and countless volunteers over the years
have turned into one of the iconic events of the year in Lincoln.
The Railsplitting Festival has had several locations and faces
over the years. It started at the fairgrounds, moved to the fields
at Lincoln College and back to the fairgrounds. It also began as a
celebration of early pioneer days, gravitated into a more modern
commercial event and now has come full circle back to its roots as a
celebration and education of what the early pioneer days in Logan
County were like.
Throughout its four decades some special common elements have
never changed: the efforts and interest of volunteers, which bring
the festival to fruition; and the many businesses, who through their
financial support have allowed the festival to remain viable and to
Geoff Ladd made it a point to say that the Railsplitting Festival
wouldn't be still thriving if not for volunteers today as well as in
the past. "There have been so many people over the years that have
been involved with the festival," he said. "How can you mention some
without leaving out or forgetting others?"
Ladd, who has been tourism's director for five of the festivals,
did want to point out one family that he feels has been essential to
the event. "We wouldn't be having the Railsplitting Festival if it
wasn't for Darlene Begolka and the entire Begolka family," Ladd said
on a radio interview on WLCN, Atlanta.
During that same interview, Darlene Begolka, currently the
president of the association, begged to give praise to her board and
all the other volunteers for keeping the festival going year after
Both also wanted to stress the important financial cooperation of area
businesses that has been instrumental in keeping the festival going as well as
keeping the festival inexpensive for families to participate in. "Area business
support has just been tremendous," Ladd said with admiration in his voice.
Ladd also wanted to give credit to "the right-hand man and festival
chairman, John Sutton." Both agreed that John and the festival's
entire volunteer base are so committed to their tasks that both are
assured that everything the volunteers are responsible for will be
[to top of second column]
Like many festivals there are many parts to the event, and having
reliable dedicated volunteers is the only way that such events can
go off smoothly.
Besides events at the fairgrounds, the festival also hosted a
storytelling night at the Lincoln Park District. In addition, there
was a trap shoot at Sportsman's Park. A Civil War Ball at the park
district brought together young and old to enjoy an evening of
mid-1800s music and dance.
The fairgrounds hosted a flea market and produce stands,
concessions, and the pioneer village. Events included a tomahawk
throw and crosscut sawing as well as amateur and professional
railsplitting contests, all of which needed judges and support
staff. All this and more means that many hands need to make sure
that everything during railsplitting weekend goes off without a
hitch -- save the weather.
And even when the weather turns afoul, volunteers make sure that
the signature professional railsplitting event goes off as planned
under the roof of the 4-H building: something that has happened the
last two years.
With so many activities at the fairgrounds and the park district,
it is only through careful and meticulous planning and volunteer
support that the festival can be a success. It is this continuation
of a legacy of support started four decades ago that makes the
volunteers and business supporters of the National Railsplitting
Festival this week's Personalities of the Week.
First vice president:
president: John Sutton
secretary: Diana Pagel
Treasurer: Gwen Tibbs
Tourism liason: Geoff
Food chairman: Gwen
Working crafts: Dave
Selling crafts: Diana
Antiques: Gwen Tibbs
Track events: Daris
Steam show: Rod
Antique tractors: Bob
Antique cars: Bill
Nancy Vannoy and Judy Ballinger
Primitive lodges: Sam
Flea market: Geoff
Ladd and Joe Hackett
Judges: Bob Presswood,
Gene Phillips, Bob Rankin,
Special help: the
Rankin clan: Bob and Diane, Bobby, Heidi and Jennifer
The special ed class at Lincoln
Community High School
Note: As with all lists of volunteers, individuals might have
been left out. If you or anyone you know should be added to this
list, please contact us at
email@example.com and we will be delighted to include
the additional names.