Railroad stock, as anyone in this town should already know, is a special breed.
Strong backs, mighty biceps and a determination set in steel is what it took to connect the mostly settled country of the nation’s East Coast to the rough and tumble, gold-strike country of the Great American West.
Abraham Lincoln, the president who saved the Union, is also the president who set this nation on a westward course when he signed the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, which created the Union Pacific Railroad now a century-and-a-half ago.
Fittingly enough for a town that helped the railroad build its empire, the Union Pacific will bring its 150th anniversary celebration to Boone as part of the annual Pufferbilly Days celebration, beginning Thursday, Sept. 6 and continuing through Sunday, Sept. 9.
Pufferbilly Days will get underway at 6 p.m. on Thursday with official opening ceremonies conducted by the Boone Veterans Council at the north end of downtown. The UP will roll in to join the celebration with special events on Friday and Saturday.
Known as the “Living Legend,” UP’s engine No. 844 is the last steam locomotive built for the railroad, delivered in 1944 as America was at war. She was retired in 1960 but was wisely saved from being scrapped and has been in special service as an “ambassador of good will” not just for Union Pacific but for the rich history of railroads as a whole.
Along with No. 844, UP is bringing Promontory, a vintage 1962 baggage car that has been transformed into an interactive museum on rail. Inside Promontory, exhibits include a 65-inch touch screen that retraces railroad history from the Golden Spike driven to bring the East and West together at Promontory, Utah, to the role of Union Pacific in moving America’s freight today.
If that’s not enough, the UP will be offering rides on the high bridge across the Des Moines River. There are ride times on both Friday and Saturday. Tickets will be handed out on a first come, first serve basis. To sign up, visit the Pufferbilly Days website at www.booneiowa.us/en/chamber_of_commerce/pufferbilly_days/.
Making it happen
Emily McColloch, events coordinator at the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, is helping assist the Pufferbilly Days Steering Committee and is excited to be helping plan what will be her first time at one of Iowa’s largest community festivals.
“I like to do the organizing and putting it all together. And I’m really excited to see it because I’ve never been to Pufferbilly Days before,” says McColloch.
A graduate of Upper Iowa University, McColloch joined the Chamber in January and has been assisting with Pufferbilly Days almost non-stop for the last several months.
As always, the annual parade down Story Street is one of the premier events, and McColloch is anticipating a great parade with a large number of applications already in.
“We’re going to have a really good turn-out for the parade,” she says.
The parade will step off at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday with the theme of “Riding the Rails Along Scenic Trails.”
All the basics are back
After a successful return to downtown last year, Pufferbilly Days will again bring food, music, and lots of fun to the downtown area. It all starts when the carnival and games open at 5 p.m. on Thursday. The brat stand and beer tent will be opening at the same time, all along Ninth Street.
Thursday evening will feature a classic auto show hosted by the Tall Corn Auto Club. The evening will also include a photo display at Ensley Photography on Story Street.
Look for the food and beverage tents to open again at 11 a.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. on Saturday; and 10 a.m. on Sunday. Carnival games will open at 4 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Some 60 to 80 area crafters are expected for the craft fair and commercial booth exhibits that will be set up along Story Street on Saturday and Sunday.
Other entertainment downtown will include bingo at 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
A community church service at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday at the Herman Park Pavilion gets the final day of the celebration underway.
And there will be no need to miss the Iowa/Iowa State football game on Saturday. A tailgate party for the game will begin at 11 a.m. in the entertainment center, followed by kickoff and broadcast on a giant screen at 2:30 p.m. The beer tent will be open from 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturday.
Of course, the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad will be running, offering great rides for all, keeping the Boone rail tradition alive.
Music, music, music
McColloch is particularly pleased with the entertainment lineup for this year’s celebration. There’s music for every taste beginning on Thursday and continuing throughout the weekend.
Kicking it off at 7 p.m. Thursday at the entertainment center downtown will be Pufferbilly Unplugged, featuring Marlin Poage, Brent Ferguson and Dan Jones.
For country flair, the Beau Nystrom Band will take to the downtown stage from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday.
On Saturday, it’s a Pop and Rock trip back to the 1970s and ’80s with Standing Hampton performing from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., also downtown at the entertainment center.
The music keeps on going Sunday afternoon, this time with a jazz flavor as the Boone Big Band offers a free concert at 4 p.m. at the Herman Park Pavilion.
Little Miss and Mr. Pageant
One event back by popular demand this year is the Little Miss and Mr. Pufferbilly Days Pageant. The return of this event, McColloch notes, is evidence that Pufferbilly Days rides on community participation to make things happen.
“We had someone step forward that was really interested in it, Sarah Moore, and she’s also got a friend who is helping her out. They were willing to put it all together, and so we’re really excited about that,” McColloch says.
There will be several age divisions for the pageant for both boys and girls, beginning with babies all the way up to 12 years of age.
Rules of the pageant set an atmosphere designed to help children develop self-confidence and let the kids have fun. Props, such as hats and gloves, are not acceptable, and no makeup is allowed for kids 6 and under. Contestants 7 and older may wear only light, age-appropriate, cosmetics.
There will be prizes for all contestants, and the winners will ride in the parade.
Registration is $30, payable to the Chamber of Commerce by Sept. 1. For more information, contact Sarah Moore Photography or the Chamber.
Golf outing joins celebration
A new event to Pufferbilly Days this year is also the result of someone within the community coming forward, voicing a desire, and then following through as a volunteer.
Randy Johnson was already involved when he suggested a golf outing be added to the celebration, according to McColloch.
“He was on our steering committee, and he really wanted to see it happen. Again, it was just having someone step up to the plate to make it happen,” she explains.
The four-person best-shot tournament will get underway with a shotgun start at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Cedar Pointe Golf Course in Boone. The 18-hole tournament is open to both men and women, with several individual flag prizes.
Deadline for entering will be Sept. 5, and there is a $40 per person entry fee. For more information or to sponsor a hole, contact Johnson at 515-298-1358.
Fun in the parks
While the majority of events will again be held downtown, a few family-friendly activities will take place in various Boone parks.
The Fifth Annual Disc Golf Tournament is set for Sunday at McHose Park. There will be an 11 a.m. tee off for beginners, using short tees over nine holes. Intermediates will tee off at 1 p.m., using a combination of long and short tees over 18 holes.
Registration is $5 for beginners and $10 for intermediates. Cash prizes will be awarded to top players. For more information, contact Luke Wittrock at 515-212-9231.
Moving up to Memorial Park, there will be some old fashioned fun with a horseshoe tournament on Sunday. Registration will begin at 10 a.m., with play to get underway at 11 a.m. There are age divisions for all, and registration is $10 per person.
Family pets will also be able to get in on the Pufferbilly Days fun as a pet show comes to the Herman Park Pavilion, beginning at 11:15 a.m. Sunday.
There are categories for dogs, cats and other pets, with awards for best in show, look-alike, and other fun categories. For example, even if your dog isn’t great at tricks, it just might earn a prize for having the biggest tail wag or the most mysterious heritage. Cats will get prizes for most colorful, fluffiest or fattest.
Entry forms are due by Sept. 7 and are available at the Chamber or on the website.
For more old-fashioned fun, test your spelling skills with a Spelling Bee at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Herman Park Pavilion. The Boone Rotary Club sponsors this event.
Down and dirty
An always popular event is the mud volleyball tournament, this year beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday south of Dodi Plaza behind Intensitee. The tournament is limited to the first 32 entry forms received, with co-ed teams consisting of at least three men and three women each. Each person can play on only one team, and the deadline for entries in Sept. 7. For more information, see the Pufferbilly Days website or call 515-432-3342.
Calories to burn
Pufferbilly Days brings the opportunity to pack on lots of extra calories, but the Boone Family YMCA is again offering a few good ways to burn some of those calories off. This is the seventh year for the 5K and 10K run/walk, stepping off from Carroll Street at 7 a.m. on Saturday.
For kids there will be a Choo Choo Fun Run at Goeppinger Field. Families are asked to note that there is a new time for the kids run at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
For more information on these or any event contact the Chamber.