Arkansas PBS > Engage > Blog > AETN celebrated “Train Day” by taking 100 children/guardians on train ride in the Ozarks.

AETN celebrated “Train Day” by taking 100 children/guardians on train ride in the Ozarks.

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In AETN's continuing efforts to promote our award-winning PBS KIDS daytime programming, I applied for and received a grant from Jim Henson Productions to host an event to celebrate "Dinosaur Train" National Train Day, increase membership in AETN's Kids Go! Club and give Arkansas's children a chance to experience riding the rails firsthand. A month-long online contest was held, and 50 kids, each with a guardian, were randomly chosen to go on a free scenic train ride on the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad from Van Buren to Winslow on Saturday, May 21, 2011. The contest winners ranged from ages 3-8 and came from all four corners of the state, as well as Oklahoma and Louisiana. The number of entries in the contest was surprisingly strong – 1376 to be exact – due to a multimedia promotion plan that included an on-air spot, a press release, a statewide display ad and placement on all of AETN's social media outlets.

During a week of torrential downpours and dangerous storms, the skies cleared right on cue on the day of the event. Registration and a reception were held in historic downtown Van Buren that included a special screening of a new episode of "Dinosaur Train," dinosaur cupcakes, refreshments and more. Each winning child was given a PBS KIDS backpack filled with a journal, dinosaur puzzle, books, educational materials, buttons, stickers, engineer hat, bandana, train whistle and more.

At exactly 10:45 a.m., the contest winners, families and staff paraded up four city blocks to the historic Van Buren train depot and boarded two restored passenger rail cars for a three-hour journey through Arkansas's beautiful Boston Mountain range. Riders experienced amazing scenery, wildlife and breathtaking train trestles 250 feet in the air. The great conductors and crew entertained passengers with stories about the history and folklore of the region and the railroad. AETN brought along a camera crew to capture the whole event on film for an upcoming pledge special on the trains of Arkansas, on-air and web spots and testimonial interviews with many of the parents and children on the ride.

For all those who entered the contest and weren't chosen to go, watch your mailboxes! AETN is currently putting together prize packs for all children who entered with journals, special "Dinosaur Train" stickers, and membership to AETN's online Kids Go! Club.

Positive comments, thank you letters and emails, and personal thanks yous from everyone on the trip make us all realize this project was a huge success and a blast to work on. You can see the smiles on everyone's faces for yourself -- we uploaded many of the photos taken that day at flickr.com/aetntv.

I'd like to personally thank all the great staff and railroad crew at the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad (479-751-8600), the good folks in Van Buren, AETN's Marketing and Outreach staff, and the grateful parents, guardians and children who drove hours to experience this train ride. For more information about this memorable trip, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Dan Koops
AETN Outreach
dkoops@aetn