BACKGROUND The Clayton Railroad Days Festival was started two years ago in tribute to the Town of Clayton and its beginnings as a railroad town. Both years, the day has featured merchandisers, food vendors, demonstrations, crafts, and a train display.
Event coordinator Lisa Thomson said prior to this year's event that the festival is a day for families to have fun and celebrate Clayton.
Group member Kevin Wilson said the group is an important part in promoting Clayton and its historical heritage.
"I bet most folks do not know that once Clayton's name was Smyrna Station because the railroad stopped here and transported goods from Smyrna," Wilson said. "It was renamed for Sen. John Clayton to honor him."
WHAT'S NEW The same group of Clayton residents who have put on the festival is now hoping to start a Clayton Historical Society as a non-profit.
"We knew as a non-profit we'd be able to do more under that umbrella," Thomson said.
Wilson said by registering as a non-profit, the group would be able to accept grants and other types of funding. Moreover, running as a non-profit would give the group more credibility.
Thomson added that having a non-profit status would allow the group to do fundraisers for the festival and make it easier to get sponsors. However, starting the group is more than about having a non-profit status. Thomson said there are other things the group would like to do like putting up banners: "Wouldn't it be great for the Clayton Historical Society to put flower pots down Main Street. Some towns have banners up."
Thus far in the process, Thomson said the group has created their bylaws and constitution. It could take quite some time to reach non-profit status though. Thomson said once the paperwork is started, it takes a year and a half to finally be approved but there's no guarantee the group will be approved.
WHAT'S NEXT? Thomson said right now the group is focusing on the bylaws, constitution and starting the paperwork. The group is also trying to find a lawyer at a reduced rate to help with the process.
As for the festival, she said group members will start contacting people about planning the festival in January.
An important part of the whole process — festival and historical society included — is finding more volunteers. Thomson said the group is desperate to find volunteers. Moreover she said the bylaws state exactly what the organization needs in terms of help from volunteers. For example, the group has a lot of ideas for kids' crafts but more help is needed with them. Volunteers also are needed to work with food vendors, demonstrations and someone to be in charge of entertainment.
"We meet once a month for not even an hour, except for August and September. And then the day of the event, that's all we're asking for," Thomson said.
To Wilson, it's not just important for people to volunteer for the event; by volunteering, he said they'll help preserve the history of Clayton and history in general.
"The small town life is also quickly disappearing. With all of the opportunities kids have today, we need a method to begin the process to at least preserve the history of Clayton for the town," Wilson said. "Many of the folks that now live in Clayton were not raised here and that today is becoming the norm. This is a great town and I want to make sure that those that follow me and the others who grew up in this town keep Clayton's history close to their heart."
The group's next meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. at Clayton Fire Hall. For more information, call Lisa Thomson at 653-3464.
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.