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Railroad Days: a bonus week with fairs, fun, fireworks

NORTH CANAAN — Sometimes fate takes the upper hand, as it did with Railroad Days this year. The 2021 celebration was intended to be somewhat shorter than normal, a little bit less than a week as opposed to the traditional multiweek schedule.

But then it started to rain — and it kept raining. Families couldn’t come out and enjoy the rides. It was too wet to wander through the retail center of the village and try new foods and look at home furnishings. 

It was all scheduled to end last Saturday, July 17, with fireworks and a parade. But then thunder was expected, and lightning, so the final celebrations were postponed for a week. 

Some of the businesses in town continued their special sales and tastings into the next week. Because the ground at Lawrence Field was so wet and spongy, the carnival vendors decided to stay in place for an additional week until they could safely remove their gear without damaging the field — so it only made sense to offer rides and games for a couple more days.

And that’s how the 2021 Railroad Days extended itself from one week to two — which of course would not have been possible without the hard work of John Lannen and his tireless volunteers.

The weather gods seemed pleased with the revised, longer Railroad Days schedule. The rain stopped on Saturday, and the air temperature dropped to a more comfortable level. Volunteer firefighters and teams of young dancers, athletes and businesses from the community paraded through town, passing the grandstand across the street from the famous Doughboy monument. On the stand were the town’s three selectmen (Selectman Craig Whiting was the emcee for the early-evening event) and state Rep. Maria Horn (D-64), who waved, cheered and snapped photos of the passing parade.

Many parade viewers went to the carnival after the parade; others went out for dinner (as if fried dough and candy apples weren’t enough of a meal).

At a little after 9 p.m., all eyes turned to the sky as rockets began to fly upward. The sky was lightly cloudy, providing a perfect backdrop for the pyrotechnics. 

Although there were cars and folding chairs and blankets scattered all over downtown North Canaan, the departure after the fireworks was as calm and well organized as the parade had been. 

Exhausted event organizer John Lannen said on Monday, July 26, that it all worked out for the best, surprises and all. There are many new and refurbished businesses in town, and their energy helped bring the festivities to life.

“I was so happy to see the new businesses doing events during Railroad Days,” Lannen said. Many of them participated in the popular Train Hunt, sort of a mix of a scavenger hunt with bingo. 

“It was such a joy to see so many families back out during the parade, carnival, Poetry is Music at Collin’s Diner and the fireworks.

“The Railroad Days committee did such a great job this year — with a shorter amount of time to put together.” 

— Cynthia Hochswender

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