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Out With Kids: Train Fest features huge wooden-track layouts in Fairhaven

A “giant play date” for train-lovers and their families is this weekend at the Train Fest for hand-operated rolling toy trains and the wooden slotted tracks they ride on.

“Kids come and bring their wooden trains. We mark off spots on the floor; they start building within their sections and then they connect their sections,” said Robin Bigelow, one of the owners of Fairhaven Toy Garden, which is sponsoring the eighth annual event.

The fun runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 14, at Firehouse Performing Arts Center, 1314 Harris Ave.

Bigelow said there’s room for about 40 layouts, and space remained available earlier this week. Cost is $10 per family to cover rental of the facility, a performance space that is the former quarters of Bellingham Fire Department’s Engine 2. Children under 12 must accompanied by an adult.

“It’s real open and casual, usually about 40 kids,” Bigelow said. “It’s mostly boys, but girls are welcome.”

Tracks and trains are mostly Brio — the dominant brand in the wooden-track genre — but there’s some Thomas and Friends equipment, she said.

It’s OK to go and just watch, too, Bigelow said — no fee required.

To keep siblings occupied and happy, there are other activities planned, such as a scavenger hunt. A Toy Garden employee who is a member of a bluegrass band will be strumming his guitar and singing train-related songs. The Firehouse has a cafe and restrooms.

“It’s not that chaotic. You think it would be, but (the kids are) very intent on building. It’s generally very focused,” Bigelow said.

“The parents get into it, right down there with the kids” for an opportunity for interaction that grownups don’t always have with their children.

“Sometimes they connect their set-ups, sometimes not,” Bigelow said. “Sometimes a child will bring homemade structures such as a roundhouse” to complement store-bought items they collect for their home layouts.

Kids even come from out of town, such as a visitor from Colorado last year. This year, a boy whose grandparents live in Bellingham plans to fly in with his dad from California for a weekend getaway, Bigelow said.

For more information or to register, call 360-714-8552, email toygarden.robin@gmail.com, or go to fairhaventoygarden.com.

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