The first day of the two-weekend Hinton Railroad Days kicks off Saturday with arts and crafts, carriage and pony rides, music, magic, food and fun.

The annual event, which takes place on Temple Street in downtown Hinton, began more than three decades ago and attracts as many as 5,000 tourists per year, according to Dorothy Jean Boley, a Railroad Days coordinator.

The festivities, which are sponsored by the city of Hinton and the Hinton Railroad Museum, are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and at the same time Oct. 22 and 23.

A unique group of local artists will set up shop at Railroad Days for the first time this year. The Mountain River Artisans was formed almost two years ago as a way for the artists to join together to showcase their skills, encourage one another, boost art appreciation in the area, boost tourism and jolt the economy, Princeton resident and MRA co-chair Robert Klandar said.

The group is made up of 18 artists, said Klandar, whose pottery is featured. In addition to pottery, the group also features weavers, photographers, water color artists, hat makers, jewelers and dried flower arrangers. Curt Messer, Hinton resident and MRA co-chair, says Railroad Days is the perfect opportunity for the group to show off its work and help the community.

“We’re trying to reintroduce art into the area,” Messer said. “We’re also interested in tourism. The economy is not the best, so we’re trying to attract tourists and give the economy a boost.”

Water color artist and Hinton native Kay Payne said although this is her first year as a Railroad Days participant, she has previously gone as a visitor and is looking forward to the festivities.

“You get to meet so many people,” she said of the event. “There’s something for everyone.”

Payne’s artwork will be displayed in the MRA booth, which will be set up outside the group’s gallery on Temple Street, and she will also do face painting for children.

“Little boys like leopards and girls like butterflies,” Payne said of the usual requests. “I’ll do whatever they dream up, though.”

Aside from the musical entertainment, a car show sponsored by the Nitro Antique Auto Club will take place Saturday in the courthouse annex parking lot. Also, the Railroad Museum and the Veterans Memorial Museum will both be open throughout the festivities.

In addition to Boley, the event is coordinated by Bobby Basham and Edward Jones.

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