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44th Annual Abraham Lincoln National Railsplitting Festival coming this weekend

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[September 16, 2014]  LINCOLN - This weekend the Logan County Railsplitting Association will host the 44th annual Abraham Lincoln National Railsplitting Festival at the Logan County Fairgrounds in Lincoln.

Last year the association had to modify the festival to fit within budgetary restrictions. In order to keep everything going, the National Railsplitting Competition was held during the Logan County Fair and the Civil War Ball took place in September at the Lincoln Park District.

According to comments made by organizer Bob Rankin to the Lincoln City Council and the Logan County Tourism Bureau, this year the Association is in better shape financially and will be offering up the full festival experience.

The weekend will begin on Friday evening at the Lincoln Park District's Recreation Center with the Civil War Ball. Association president, Darlene Begolka, said the ball is a great opportunity to come out and enjoy music and dance as it would have been in the days of Abraham Lincoln.

She noted the Ball will include a group of “callers” from the Springfield area, who are very good at making sure that even the most novice dancer can enjoy the evening. She noted that when they divide the guests up into squares or rounds for the dances, every effort is made to put the inexperienced with those that are experienced dancers. In addition, the callers do a great job of walking through the dances and explaining the steps.

The ball is also a chance to have some fun in a costume. Begolka said costumes are certainly not required, and each year, many guests come dressed in a variety of ways, from casual to formal. She said for those who do have 1800’s era costumes, it is fun to see and watch them dance, and the other guests enjoy seeing the costumes as well.

The ball will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 19th in the Park District ballroom.

On Saturday, the traditional opening ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at the fairgrounds.

During the day on Saturday there will be a wide variety of events, games, and contests going on at the fairground. The pioneer village will be set up with examples of how life was in the days of Abraham Lincoln. There will be children’s games and activities going on including a new activity this year; stick horse races.

Competitions for the day will include the women’s firewood splitting competition, cross cut saw contest, log rolling, Junior and amateur rail splitting contests and much more.
Begolka shared that there will also be a new fun event this year, offered on both Saturday and Sunday, outhouse races. She explained there will be teams of four competing with an outhouse. One person will have to "ride” inside the house while the others move it along. She said it would be a relay competition of sorts in that from time to time the person inside the outhouse will get to come out, and a new person will have to go in. The outhouse races are scheduled to take place Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

On Sunday, the festival will open at 10 a.m. with a non-denominational church service. Contests for the day will include the Tomahawk throw, corn shelling, and water boiling.

In addition to all this there will be live music throughout the weekend, food vendors, and craft and flea markets.

The craft and flea markets will take place in and around the exhibit barns at the fairgrounds. These are the barns located on the mid-way, behind the grandstand. Among those that will have exhibits will be the Logan County Arts, which is hosting a horse auction.

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Members of the group, have created some very special pieces of art using slightly downsized carousel horses. The horses have been on display in local businesses, and those interested in owning a horse have been able to “bid” on them in silent auction fashion. The horses will all be taken to the fairground for the festival with bidding to continue until 2:30 p.m. on Sunday when the winning bidders will be announced. Proceeds from the auction will go to support future festivals.

Another feature this year is a quilt show hosted by the Atlanta United Methodist Women and the Atlanta Quilting Corner. The show will run on both Saturday and Sunday. It will take place in the textiles building (south end of exhibit barns) at the fairgrounds. Begolka noted that there will also be a special bake sale and craft sale hosted by the Christian Village.

At 3 p.m. on Sunday there will be a reenactment of the christening of the city of Lincoln by Abraham Lincoln and the professional rail splitting contest will commence at 3:15 p.m.

Rankin had commented at a recent tourism meeting that the Railsplitter Festival has connection to Abraham Lincoln that not everyone understands.

In his youth, Lincoln learned to wield an ax as part of the work he did on his family farm in Kentucky. In the 1830’s he and John Hanks, who was a cousin to Illinois Governor Richard Oglesby used axes to clear trees and built fences for a family homestead along the Sangamon River near Decatur.

When Lincoln was running for office he became known as “Abe Lincoln, the Rail Splitter candidate for President of 1860.” The Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College currently has one of Lincoln’s campaign banners on hand that shows clearly an Ax and a Maul, tools used in rail splitting.

Finally, the last big change for this year’s festival is going to affect the wallet! Begolka said this year the association decided to LOWER the price of admission at the gate. In the past, the per person fee at the gate has been $3.00. This year it will drop to only $1.00 per person for ages 13 and up. Ages 12 and under will be admitted free.

Begolka said the association wants to draw people in for a fun and affordable weekend in Lincoln. She is hopeful that lowering the admission price will bring more people to the festival.

Looking forward, in 2015 the association will celebrate 45 years of the festival. Begolka said the association membership has been very open minded about the changes that may take place. On the whole, they believe combining the festival with events at the Postville Courthouse will offer visitors a wider variety of activities and will increase the number of visitors to both events. She said in the end, change is difficult for everyone, but embracing change in this instance may prove to be beneficial for everyone.


Related websites

44th Annual Abraham Lincoln National Railsplitting Festival website

Lincoln Heritage Museum Explore the Museum

Abe Lincoln and His Ax: Reality Behind the Legend


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