Tika Weeks, a local artist whose children grew up riding the steam-powered trains at the Medford Railroad Park, wants to make sure future generations ride through the pint-size tunnels and over the grassy hills for decades to come.
Her fundraiser for the park, “Paint, Sip & SAVE the Train Park,” will start at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, at Visions of Wonderland art studio, 632 Crater Lake Ave., Medford. The event will include food and beverages and myriad raffle prizes, with all proceeds going to the Southern Oregon Live Steamers, which provides rides at the park on small-scale, steam-powered trains.
The main event, a “Rails Forever” paint class, will kick off at 6:30 p.m. with participants painting a steaming locomotive emerging from a tunnel — not unlike one of the many features at the popular Medford attraction.
Weeks, owner of Visions of Wonderland, said she decided to host the event when she heard that the train park was struggling to cover operating expenses.
Park volunteers reported in early summer that ridership had increased nearly as dramatically as donations had dropped. Dependent on donations and a small amount of club dues, the park is on property leased by the city of Medford, which provides use of the old sewer plant at essentially no cost.
Weeks said she couldn’t fathom children in the Rogue Valley losing access to the park or missing a chance to “ride the rails.”
“My kids are teenagers now, but when they were little, that was a really cool place to go, especially when you had a tight budget, and it’s by donation. It’s like an amusement park almost, especially for the really little kids. There’s just lots to explore and to pretend, so it was a big deal to my kids growing up,” Weeks said.
“I saw that they were struggling with donations and, realizing that it’s completely funded by our donations, if we aren’t all donating, then it won’t be there for those next generations to make memories.”
Track superintendent Tony Johnson said the art class fundraiser was a touching gesture from Weeks, and he added that the park has seen increased donations and volunteers in recent months.
“Things have been pretty good. Donations have been up, though of course it’s been a toss-up with the weather and the smoke we got all summer,” Johnson said.
“We picked up five more volunteers, and they’re people who just don’t sign up and you never see them again. They’re the kind that are coming out to the park and showing up and helping us out. All I can think of is with all the work we can do this winter, it’s going to be beautiful when we open back up. Parking is still the same, but people are still using satellite parking lots, and they’re still coming in to ride the trains.”
Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the second and fourth Sundays from April through October, the park’s season is winding down, with a session this weekend and two in October. Johnson said kids will be welcome to wear their Halloween costumes the final Sunday, Oct. 22.
The Oct. 7 art event will precede the second-to-last run day of the year, likely making both October sessions extra busy.
Art-class participants can register for the class for a $35 fee. Anyone preferring to purchase food and beverages or buy raffle tickets — they need not be present to win — can do so in the week prior to the event or up until the 5 p.m. food and raffle portion.
Raffle prizes include art supplies from Central Art Supply, which is sponsoring the art class, a private train party at Railroad Park, and various goods and services from local businesses. Weeks said she hoped her efforts would both spread awareness about the park and help raise money.
“We figured this is our community, and this is something I want my grandkids to be able to enjoy,” Weeks said.
“It’s funny. I just recently came across photos of my boys when we had gone, and they look so little. It’s been a really special place to so many families in our community, so I’m asking people to come and help show our support.”
To serve a seat at the train-painting class, call Visions of Wonderland at 541-778-7215. For more information, see www.visionsofwonderland.com/product-page/10-7-paint-sip-save-the-train-park.