On July 25, 1981, Logansport once again became a railroad city as the inaugural Iron Horse Festival opened downtown. The train, owned by Robert Spaugh of Elkhart, was boarded by an astounding 6,796 people during the weekend’s 12 paid runs to nearby France Park. The festival attracted enthusiasts from as far away as Maryland, as attendance topped 25,000.
JULY 26, 1981 — Threatening skies and a slight drizzle during much of Saturday afternoon did little to dampen the spirit at the Iron Horse festivities.
Every Saturday excursion of the steam train, including a special run which was added because of the heavy demand for tickets, sold out in advance. Tickets remained available for Sunday excursions, however.
And people lined the tracks, often four and five deep to watch the great iron horse.
All hand-made train whistles were sold out by 2 p.m. Saturday, and all t-shirts, except for the smallest children’s sizes, were also sold out early Saturday.
Every time the crowd appeared to be thinning, another shuttle bus would arrive, or an excursion trip would return, and people would flood into the midway area.
Booths selling everything from Greek food to beer to crafts were doing a brisk business, with food (of course) being the hottest selling item.
The crowd was forever coming and going, making estimates of its size difficult. Beverly Marx, executive vice president of the Logansport/Cass County Chamber of Commerce estimated the crowd to be at least 25,000 people.’’
She cited the turnover in the crowd as a factor which made estimates difficult. “The only faces that are constant are those of the booth workers,” she said.
Steve Waldron, driver of one of the shuttle buses, said his bus averaged 30 persons per trip, and he made a round trip to the Logansport Mall once every half-hour.
He said use of the buses was “a little more than I had anticipated.” “Traffic is steady, people have been coming and going all day,” he added, despite the fact he had expected the business to “come in spurts.”
Nearly 200 runners participated in the Iron Horse 10,000 Meter Run, which was won by Rod Hattery, of Rochester. About 70 of those runners waited until the day of the race to register, making the field much larger than anticipated.
The house tour was also extremely well attended, as people lined up outside some of the homes waiting to take the tour.
Civil Defense Director Dale Turnpaugh said his entire staff of 14 persons was on the job at the festival. He said “Considering so much is happening all at once, things are going fairly well.”
“It’s been a heck of a crowd,” he added, referring to both the size and the orderly nature of the festival.
He said the time element is the most difficult problem for Civil Defense personnel, because of the tight and busy schedule of the festival.
When asked for a crowd estimate, he said “I have no idea, but this place is pretty well filled up.”
The first aid station reported only “a few cuts and bruises,” but that no one needed serious medical attention at the festival by early evening Saturday.