Presented by the city of Adairsville, the event will be held Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Along with about 70 arts, crafts and food vendors, the festival will feature carnival rides, live entertainment, pageants and a parade Saturday at 11 a.m. Starting on King Street, the parade procession will travel south on Main Street, down Public Square, across the railroad tracks, back north onto Railroad Street and then end at King Street.
“It’s the biggest thing around and has been for years,” said Adairsville City Manager Pat Crook. “As soon as one festival is over, they plan for the [next one]. So the crowd has gotten bigger as the years have gone by. Last year, we expanded the area of the festival and made it where people could move around a little bit better, and we created a food court area in log town, where they can just go and sit down and there’s food and there’s entertainment. We expanded from one stage with entertainment to two stages [and], of course, there’s the pageant that everyone looks forward to.
“... This year is particularly special to us because of the tornado in January. Just that the community has come together and helped us rebuild and the fact that we can do this [festival and] parade and not have to worry about the city being in shambles, is just a wonderful thing. So [there will be] just a little more sense of community this year.”
While every aspect of the festival is not related to the Civil War, its name is a callback to civilian spy James Andrews and his Union accomplices trying to disrupt a key supply line of the Confederacy on April 12, 1862. After stealing the General locomotive in Cobb County, they planned to destroy the Western & Atlantic Railroad’s tracks and telegraph lines en route to Chattanooga, Tenn. Their plan was spoiled, however, when a southbound freight train pulled by the Texas locomotive decided to help pursue the General, traveling in reverse from south of Adairsville to catch Andrews north of Ringgold.
Along with being the subject of a mural on the outside of the 1847 W & A Rail Depot — which houses the Adairsville Welcome Center and Rail Depot Age of Steam Museum — the Great Locomotive Chase’s story also is highlighted inside the museum. During the festival, visitors can tour the Age of Steam Museum free of charge on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 3 p.m.
“We have pictures of every one of the Raiders,” said Linda Bass, third vice president for the Sans Souci Women’s Club, which staffs the Adairsville Welcome Center and Rail Depot Age of Steam Museum. “We have pictures of the [train’s crew] and what they did in trying to get the train back. So, I guess, that part of [the exhibit] is probably the most interesting.
“Also, we have on display the fate of the Raiders, like which ones were hanged, which ones escaped and then which ones were traded for, I guess, Confederate prisoners of war. [It is very interesting to view] the display that we have about the people that were involved in the chase and what happens to them after the chase.”
Echoing Crook’s comments, Bass also believes the festival, which has grown in scope, has become a reunion of sorts. While she will be greeting visitors this year at the Adairsville Welcome Center, she has witnessed the event transform since its inception. As an Adairsville high school teacher around 1970, she helped operate the initial festival.
“[It started] as a replacement for the Halloween carnival [for the Adairsville] school,” Bass said. “... Our principal [Marion Lacey] announced in the faculty meeting that we were not having the Halloween carnival at school this year but we were going to move it to downtown Adairsville. And the reason he decided to name it the Great Locomotive Chase Festival was simply because he had seen the Disney movie and realized that Adairsville had played a part in the chase with the Texas starting out from here. So he thought, ‘Well, that’s what we’ll name this festival,’ because it doesn’t coincide with the actual date of the chase.
“... [Over the years] it grew from just being school run to the school and churches in the community [being involved] and then other groups started coming in. Then the city took it over and they started bringing in the amusement rides and they [added] arts and crafts to it. So it’s just grown over the years to what it is now.”
Admission for individuals 6 and older will be a one-time fee of $3 Friday and/or Saturday. There will be no charge to partake in Sunday’s offerings. For more information, contact the city of Adairsville at 770-773-3451.