A man who can surely take some of the credit for Railroad Days success is Dennis Clark, who announced on Monday that after this year he would step down from chairing Railroad Days after 15 years in the post.
Clark insists that he’s not that good of a manager but takes pride in bringing great people on to the festival team.
He says the downtown carnival is among the best carnivals in the Midwest, calling past companies they’ve worked with “scammers.”
Clark says they now work with a reputable honest company.
He also thanked the Galesburg City Council for always responding to help him in his visions for Railroad Days.
“Those visions are coming true,” Clark told aldermen. “today some people say, ‘well Railroad Days is a little spread out.’ It’s not spread out when you add 15,000 more people. It is the right size. The foundation is set.”
Clark also encouraged Galesburg residents to support Railroad Days in great numbers.
He also sees opportunities to get more church groups involved, possibly with religious-themed concerts in Park Plaza.
This news of Clark’s pending retirement comes ahead of the 42nd Annual Railroad Days that kicks off on Thursday.
When he started attendance had dwindled to 4,000 with participation from four non-profits.
Juxtapose that with 2018 when an estimated 16,000 attended and 29 non-profits got involved.
And despite an instance of isolated gunfire without injuries last year, Clark says the carnival is now an event to be proud of.
“It was a terrible carnival when I took it over — absolutely terrible. They were scammers. We got a different carnival today. It was moving about every year, it [would] move to a different location every year and people didn’t know what to expect. They didn’t know what to think. ”
But as Clark gets ready for his Railroad Days finale, he has confidence it will continue to grow and has some ideas for how it can.
He told the council last night it would be wise to do more targeting of railroad enthusiasts in Chicago, and audiences that would travel to Galesburg on tour trains.