Great Locomotive Chase Festival steams into town
by Matt Shinall
Sep 26, 2010 | 3300 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Adairsville High School Marching Tiger Band participates in last year’s Great Locomotive Chase Festival Parade through downtown Adairsville. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News FILE
The Adairsville High School Marching Tiger Band participates in last year’s Great Locomotive Chase Festival Parade through downtown Adairsville. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News FILE
For three days, Adairsville's downtown population will swell as the 42nd annual Great Locomotive Chase Festival takes shape Friday afternoon.

Beauty pageants, food vendors, carnival rides, live music, craft demonstrators and a parade will descend upon the downtown area to celebrate the infamous great locomotive chase.

The 1862 chase involved a steam engine stolen by Union spies bound northward with intentions to take up track and burn bridges destroying Confederate supply lines. Some of the group, known as Andrew's Raiders, were the first recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The events that became known as the great locomotive chase, were later made into the first narrative film, The Great Train Robbery produced in 1903. But beyond the events of that day, the railroad holds a formative history for the city of Adairsville. Director of the Adairsville Rail Depot Age of Steam Museum, Jerri Holloway expounded on the importance of observing the traditions of a small town festival based around historical events.

"If you don't know where you came from, you don't know where you're going. And the only way to know where you came from is to study your history and if you live in town -- my theory is even if you've just recently moved here -- if you live in town, it's your history too. And you need to know about it to know what kind of town you've moved into and it'll help you to know the kind of people you're going to meet," Holloway said.

Helping to remind guests of where they came from, the festival will include all of the traditional carnival rides and festival foods as well as historic craft demonstrators sharing their trade with visitors. Flint knappers, jewelry makers, hide tanners, a beekeeper and a collection of Civil War artifacts will serve in addition to the Age of Steam Museum to share with those in attendance, what it took to survive when the town was young.

Coming to know the roots of a small town also allows old friends to reunite. The annual festival often becomes the meeting ground for mini-reunions and impromptu homecomings.

"A lot of people just come to see people they haven't seen in a while. So you not only get to see people that you haven't seen in a while but you get to make new friends -- you know, new people that just moved into town. People are always friendly at the festival, you can talk to anybody. It's just a fun place to be," Holloway said.

A long and varied history shows the rise and decline of what is now historic downtown Adairsville, but a revival of the old public square has begun with a large group of passionate locals trying to spread the word of small town charm and heritage.

"Originally, the town was here because of the railroad and it thrived because of the railroad and when they took out the freight and passenger service in 1967, the town began to just go to sleep. Then when they moved 41 over and built the new 41 it just nearly died and now we're building it back and making a little headway with it. Bringing it back to life," Holloway said. "It's just part of the history. It was one of the busiest little towns and one of the busiest little depots in north Georgia in it's heyday and so many people were born and raised around here. Just to let it die for lack of interest is just not something that the people in this area wanted to do. They value their heritage and they value their history and this was a big part of it."

Beginning Friday at noon, this year's event will feature many of the traditional activities, including the parade held Saturday at 11 a.m., as well as fresh performances from bands and various entertainers. Events will also be held outside of the Public Square in association with the festival, including the Adairsville Chase 5K and fun run Saturday at Manning Mill Park to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bartow County. Race-day registration is $25, check-in is at 8 a.m. with the race to begin at 8:30 a.m. For more information contact Gordon Gilley at, call 770-382-5500 or visit

Saturday morning beginning at 9 and lasting until 2 p.m., the eighth annual "Second Time Around" Car and Truck Show hosted by the Oak Hill Baptist youth group will be held at the Adairsville Middle School football field parking lot. Registration is $25 and prizes will be given for winners in various categories.