Meridian Star

November 4, 2012

Downtown alive with festivals

Thousands attend various events

By Michael Stewart / Executive Editor
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Downtown Meridian was abuzz with activity Saturday as throngs of people showed up for several events.

    The Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum was at the hub of the activities, where the 10th Annual Soule´ Live Steam Festival featured operating steam engines that once powered America's industries.

    The festival highlighted the historical Soule´Steam Feed Works building on 19th Avenue, which produced steam engines for the lumber industry from 1892 to the mid-1950s.

    There were large steam engines used to operate saw mills, cotton gins and grist mills and smaller ones used for wood lathes and even popcorn makers.

    "They pretty much ran anything that needed power," said festival volunteer Forbes Mathews, a retired mechanical engineer.

    After dark, hot molten iron was poured into molds created by students and festival attendees in the Sparks in the Dark presentation.

    Saturday marked Meridian resident Tabitha Griffin's first visit to the festival.

    "I was amazed at the different types and sizes of steam engines," Griffin said. "When I thought of steam engines, I always thought of the ones used to operate railroad locomotives."

    Which is fitting given that a block away, the Meridian RailFest was underway adjacent to Union Station in the Meridian Railroad Museum. Outside the museum, there were tours of old railroad cars from bygone eras and vendors selling everything from posters to model trains.

    "There is a fairly rabid model rail fan community out there," said Bill Pettey, who is with Humming Bird Model Trains out of Gulfport.

    Inside, railroad memorabilia was on display, as was a massive model train track with working cars that took members of the Queen City Model Railroad Club years to assemble.

    "This is amazing," visitor John Wright said of the model train track. "The detail is overwhelming. I have never seen anything like this."

    The Carousel Organ Association of America Fall Rally was also underway, with attractions at both the Soule´and RailFest locations, featuring a street grinder and a Wulitzer military band organ, among other things.

    Adjacent to the Meridian RailFest, Earth's Bounty wrapped up its final event of the year.

    Held this year on the first Saturday of the month, Earth's Bounty features fresh produce and homemade products.

    More than 20 vendors participated Saturday and were doing a brisk business.

    "Earth's Bounty has been an unparalleled success this year," said John McClure, executive director of Meridian Main Street.

    Given all of the events downtown Saturday, the turnout for the last Earth's Bounty was great, McClure said.

    "One event has fed off of another with all of the activities down here," McClure said.