OGDEN — They’re calling it the biggest thing to hit the city since the 2002 Winter Olympics.
The sesquicentennial of the driving of the Golden Spike — which marked the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad — is expected to bring six-figure crowds to the Ogden area for the May 10 commemoration.
Danielle Collier, marketing and communications coordinator for Ogden Downtown Alliance, said everybody’s been pushing the idea of 200,000 people in town this week, but some think that number could go even higher.
“Internally, they’ve been talking 250,000, because they want to be ready and prepared, just in case,” Collier said.
And part of that preparation is giving folks something to do when they’re not doing whatever it was they came here for.
Enter the Heritage Festival 150th Anniversary, three days of music, activities, food and beverage in downtown Ogden.
“The reason Ogden proposed a street festival is that there’s going to be so many people down here, what do we do with them?” Collier said.
The festival runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 9-11, along Historic 25th Street between Grant Avenue and Union Station on Wall Avenue. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. all three days.
Collier refers to the festival as a “special edition” of the Heritage Festival that Ogden’s Union Station hosts every year.
“But that’s a much smaller event, and it’s held inside the station,” she said.
At this year’s Heritage Festival 150th, visitors will be able to stroll Historic 25th Street without having to worry about vehicles — barricades will block off Wall Avenue and other cross streets along the festival route.
“You’ll be able to walk from Grant Avenue all the way to Union Station,” Collier said. “Wall Avenue will be closed for three days.”
The family-friendly festival will include live music, cultural performances, community activities, food, vendors, historic presentations, local breweries and more.
The festival will feature a beer garden, with local breweries taking part. There will also be both local and global vendor booths, with some coming from as far away as Germany, according to Collier.
And the main stage will feature plenty of entertainment.
“The cool thing is, we have three days to play with the programming,” Collier said. “And we’ve worked hard to get three days full of programming. The main stage will constantly have something happening on it, from music to cultural performances.”
For example, at 10:30 a.m. today the main stage will show a live feed of Union Pacific’s Steam Meet between the Big Boy No. 4014 and Living Legend No. 844 locomotives, taking place on the railroad tracks west of Wall Avenue at 26th Street, just a few blocks away.
“I would encourage people to go to our main stage and watch it from there, because it’s going to be crazy,” Collier said.
The band Altar Billies will kick of the main stage music at 1 p.m. Thursday, playing the tune “Ballad of the Big Boy” in honor of the famed locomotive.
At various times all three days, Ogden Musical Theatre will present “Wedding of the Rails,” a musical celebration with train-themed songs like “Sixteen Tons,” “Sentimental Journey and “Wabash Cannonball.”
On Friday, the Jazz at the Station organization will feature jazz music on the main stage throughout the day.
And on Saturday, cultural performances from Divya School of Dance, Tutulli Ballet Folklorico and Celtic Beat will be featured.
“Everything we’re doing, we’re trying to bring back the idea of Ogden’s past, present and future as it pertains to the transcontinental railroad,” Collier said. “We want the community to celebrate with us and rediscover what the railroad meant to Ogden in general and people individually.”
The Heritage Festival 150th Anniversary celebration is a collaborative effort between Ogden Downtown Alliance, Visit Ogden and Ogden City. Collier said she thinks the three groups have put together a pretty amazing festival for visitors and residents alike.
“It’s going to be like — and I know you’ll understand this — but it will be like the Harvest Moon Celebration on steroids,” she said. “… And it’ll be this kind of train-themed environment.”
The festival is free and open to the public.
For more information, visit GoldenSpike2019.com, or call 800-255-8824.