On Saturday, Meridian will once again remember and celebrate our beginnings, our heritage, and the good people who came before us.

What: RAILFEST 2021

Where: Old Meridian Railroad Museum, 1805 Front Street

Time: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Why: A family event celebrating Meridian railroad heritage.

Sponsor: Meridian Rails Historical Society

Perhaps Saturday in Meridian will be best known as a Whistlestop Weekend, when making memories, y'all. It is a family event. Bring the kids and grandma and expect a wonderful time.

Not only Railfest 2021, but the fantastic, world-renowned event, Soule Live Steam Festival (Saturday and Sunday), Earth's Bounty and Art Walk at Union Station will take place and don't forget the grand opening of the Threefoot Hotel. (More about that later).

But wow, just wow!

You know it's been too long. Our train memories have been neglected, due to unforeseen complications, however a group of hardworking, railroad-loving-people stepped up.

Lucy Dormont and the Meridian Rails Historical Society diligently worked to bring local railroad history out of the shadows. The first achievement will take place this Saturday in the old Railroad Museum location.

The Meridian Rails Historical Society has for months quietly worked, planned, cleaned, and called for all who love Meridian railroad heritage to join. And when you see them Saturday, shake their overworked hands and tell them your appreciation.

I know I will.

At 8 a.m. come enjoy model trains, railroad exhibits with a special children's area. Get caught up in the excitement in downtown Meridian.

At 10:00 a.m. I am delighted to tell the story of a Meridian pioneering railroad family as related to me by a great grandson, Mr. Walton Moore. Each word shared with me passionately and I absolutely must tell you. Our Meridian heritage stories must be told, especially about the beginning of the railroads here.

Meridian was built on the back of the rails.

The keynote speaker, John Robert Smith, former Meridian Mayor, and a major player in the revitalization of Meridian Downtown, will speak at 10:30 a.m.

And music: Matt Prater Band known for Honky Tonk, Folk & Roots Music will take the stage at 12:00 p.m. followed by Tyler Carrol & Pineridge Bluegrass Band at 2:00 p.m. Nothing better than Bluegrass, Honky Tonk and railroads.

Yes, it has been a long time since Meridian Founders first got the news in the mid 1850s that the Mobile and Ohio Railroad planned to run a line through property owned by Lauderdale County settler, Richard McLemore.

That was when Mr. Ball from Kemper County and Mr. Ragsdale from Alabama sought out Mr. McLemore to make a land purchase, especially land joining proposed railroad line. Each bought eighty acres and that was the beginning of the City of Meridian.

Saturday, listen for the train whistle, and let all Meridianites and friends from surrounding communities come together and celebrate our railroad heritage.

Anne McKee is a proud, native Meridianite and Mississippi historian. She is the author of “Remembering Mississippi” and “Historic Photos of Mississippi.” Anne is known as a Mississippi Storyteller and as well the Director of Rose Hill Cemetery Costumed Tour. See her website: www.annemckeestoryteller.com

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