Dunsmuir afluter with activity over busy Railroad Days weekend

Cassandra Tiersma
A family enjoying Railroad Days watches engine 5309 arrive in the Dunsmuir yards.

Dunsmuir was bustling with activity throughout Railroad Days over the weekend. Fine weather prevailed, making it a perfect day for dining alfresco Saturday morning at the Dunsmuir Rotary Pancake Breakfast, which was served outdoors, next to the Dunsmuir Brewery.

The noon whistle on Saturday signaled the start of the Railroad Days Parade. This year’s Railroad Days parade marked the 10th year that Dunsmuir resident Ester McClendon has been serving as parade coordinator. Numerous firefighting vehicles provided a large part of the parade. They presented a dramatic element with all of their sirens blaring simultaneously.

The Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture added some clever railroad-themed interest to the parade with their creative parade entry. They won the trophy for the Best Railroad Theme Presentation with their three-car train created out of a pick-up truck pulling a “boxcar” full of string band musicians, with a flatbed trailer “caboose” carrying a handbuilt, six-man velocipede gandydancer railbike, complete with rail gang riders.  

The “Miss and Mr. Little Engineer” presentation won a prize for the Best Kids Group.

Cross Petroleum won the Best Business Presentation, with Mike Mei driving Mr. Cross’ red 1947 Ford flatbed truck carrying a miniature locomotive. Also in the business division was Benson’s Roofing, who entertained parade watchers with their dramatic antics, tied off with rigging, on the outsides of one of the company’s big work rigs.

The Mountain Gypsies won for Best Group Presentation, with a balloon-festooned truck pulling the exotically-costumed belly dancers on a flatbed trailer float.

Elsa DaCosta of Montague, won Best In Show with her 1965 Morgan roadster.

Lindsay Budner received an honorable mention with her “Cobra Lily” Russian military motorcycle with a sidecar carrying a canine passenger.

In addition to vendors and the parade, the Dunsmuir Library held a Book and Bake Sale, the Cedar Flat Model Trains were on display below the Sheriff’s Station, the Dunsmuir Depot Museum was open at the Amtrak Station and Pops Performance Center on Sacramento Avenue offered an “Instrument Petting Zoo” for families with children.

Unfortunately, the Soapbox Derby was cancelled due to insurance issues. But Dave Keisler, the Soapbox Derby event coordinator for the past seven years, said it will be back next year.

Tim Holt was the coordinator of the Second Annual Fiddle Contest at Railroad Days. He said they had twice the number of contestants this year in the contest’s second year.

Winners in the Adults division were: First Place - Allegra Weaver, Second Place - Christina Morales, and Third Place - George Fredson.

In the junior division (9-17 years old) were Tahlia Misner, got first place, Helaina Rogers took second and Lilly Murray took third.

In the Pee Wee Division for kids under 8, Allie Rodriguez was the winner. Jaclynn Murray took second and third place went to Adaya Estep. The Youngest Fiddler recognition went to 4 year-old Kyla Kowalski, who, according to Holt, played in her first fiddle competition at the age of 3.

After the fiddle contest, there was a Second Saturday Art Reception at the Siskiyou Arts Museum. This month’s show is a Finley Fryer Retrospective, sponsored by Peter Arth.

Fryer is a notable California artist who makes his home in Dunsmuir and Gold Beach, Ore. The exhibit features past and recent works by Fryer, several of which have not been available for public view in many years, including a giant self-portrait which had never been shown in a gallery until now.

When asked why he’d never shown it before, Fryer said he’d never had the nerve, because he was “too self-conscious.” Approximately four decades after painting the self portrait, the distinguished Fryer looks quite different from the youthful image of himself as a young artist.

The portrait is a wall-size headshot and can be viewed, along with many of Fryer’s works, at SAM through this month.

While the show went on at SAM, he Railroad Days Battle of the Bands was getting started and continued until 10 p.m. Hellametal took first place, Bullet Lobotomy took second and third wen to 1 Day Sober.

On Sunday, there was a watermelon eating contest in Kids Park, and various bands, including Dunsmuir’s own Victor & Allison played on the main stage throughout the afternoon.

Simultaneously, there was a Car Show and Shine in the lot next to the Chamber of Commerce. The Jaywalkers band provided live rock-and-roll music throughout the event.

Awards are determined by a people’s ballot voting system, which makes for a fun activity for all those who attend the car show, said coordinatory Larry McClendon, who is in his fifth year in the role.

Tom and Rose Harris of Yreka, won the 2019 Car Show and Shine trophy for Best Paint.

Tom Thoreson of Mount Shasta won the trophy for the Best Engine with a rare 351 Cleveland Boss.

Steve and Lynell Allen won the trophy for Best Car with their 1967 RS Camaro with custom teal paint with silver stripes. Lynell said this was their third time to win a trophy at the event. She explained that their other award-winning car was all torn up, being worked on, so this time they brought the Camaro.

Lynda Beverlin of Fort Jones, won the trophy for Best Truck with her 1952 Ford pick-up.

Best in Show went to Elsa DaCosta of Montague. DaCosta won with her 1965 Morgan roadster, which also won the trophy for Best Classic Car Presentation in the parade Saturday.

Vendors were set up on Pine Street, selling their wares, cooking food, painting faces, and doing airbrush tattoos. Vendors said business was good. Similarly, Dunsmuir’s merchants enjoyed good business during the event, particularly on Saturday.

Yeshe, owner of the Sacred Well, said she had a steady stream of visitors in her shop throughout the day.

“It’s definitely one of the best days we’ve had in seven years. Yesterday (Saturday) was epic,” said Beau, who was working at Wonderland Pop Culture Emporium. “We sold a lot of CDs and records. It was well-attended and we had a lot of positive feedback. People said they loved the store.”

Plenty of customers were seen coming out of Harley’s Antiques with interesting vintage treasures.

In north Dunsmuir, next to the swimming pool, the newly-opened Sten’s Burger Strand was also busy. Owner Sten said they were “crazy busy” on Saturday.

As Railroad Days was winding down, spirits were high and people were already talking about ways they could make it even better next year.