Sep 13, 2007 Willie Kiernan Uncategorized
It’s a festival in Hamilton!
Historic train wreck inspires sweet celebration
By Willie Kiernan
Two carloads of chocolate spilled into Hamilton on Sept. 27, 1955. Fifty-two years later, Hamilton celebrates the train wreck with a festival.
“It was a dark, rainy night,” said Patricia von Mechow, festival coordinator.
A N.Y. O. & W. train came to the Lebanon Street crossing in the village of Hamilton, when suddenly one of the engineers hit the brakes. He had noticed that the main switch had been flipped, redirecting the diesel toward the Leland Coal shed. Due to the wet rails, the conductor could not stop the train and it crashed through the back wall of the coal shed.
“The train went off the tracks and was airborne for about 150 feet,” von Mechow said. “Since it was a freight train, there were only four men aboard. Luckily, none of the crew was seriously injured.”
The train’s cargo included two carloads of Nestles’ products.
“Delicious chocolate chips, crunch bars candy and cocoa were spilled along the site,” von Mechow said. “It must’ve been an extremely loud crash.”
The sheriff, firemen, state police and the FBI were all on the scene to determine the cause of the mishap and who was responsible for flipping the switch. No charges were ever made.
“Local Colgate University students as well as residents did their civic duty to clean up the mess,” von Mechow said. “They all rushed to the site to gather up pockets and even wheelbarrows filled with chocolate.”
Hamilton continues to celebrate this unique event by taking yearly school trips to the historic site.
The Great Chocolate Wreck A Sweet Celebration of History will be held on the Hamilton Village Green from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday Sept. 29. The festival will feature plenty of family fun, local talent, a commemorative sign unveiling and lots of chocolate.
“We had the first festival in 2005 for the 50-year anniversary,” von Mechow said. “We’re having it again this year because of the historic sign that will go up near the site of the train wreck.”
The proceedings will begin at 10 a.m. with New York City musician Will Galison singing his original composition telling the story of the great wreck. Galison’s father is an alumnus of Colgate and remembers the event.
John Taibi, local train historian and author will lead a tour of the historic site at 11a.m.
At 11:30 a.m., the Hamilton Historic Commission and the village of Hamilton will dedicate the historical sign near the fire house parking lot. The sign was created by David Grace of Earthworks Design Studio and made possible by the Partnership for Community Development and Parry’s. The Hamilton Historic Commission and the Chenango Canal Association will share regional historic information at their tents.
You can dress as your favorite candy bar and march in the “Parade of Sweets,” a candy costume parade at 1p.m.
At 1:30 p.m., as part of a closing ceremony, pi atas created to resemble the N.Y. O. & W. diesel train made by students from four local schools (Hamilton Central, Madison Central, New Life Christian, and Sherburne Earlville Elementary) will zoom down a zip-line crashing through “the Leland Coal Shed” to reenact the historic event.
“From there the pi atas, filled with thousands of Hershey’s candy bars, will be brought to the four-ring chocolate circus, where children of all ages will be able enjoy the spilled treats,” von Mechow said. “A special thanks to Grand Union in Hamilton and Hershey’s for providing the candy.”
All during the festival, local artist Deb Whitman will be displaying her sculpting talents as she creates a relief of the diesel in a large solid block of chocolate.
“It’s a festival for everyone, packed with scrumptious goodness,” von Mechow said. “There will be family games and activities like chocolate pudding finger painting, train exhibits by the Central N.Y. Chapter of the Railway Historical Society, a skit written and performed by the Madison Summer Drama Club and the sweet sounds of local female sensations Juliana Slocum, Merrill Amos, Zainep Abdelaal and Emelia Failing. The day is like a candy bar to be enjoyed with every bite.”
Before and after the festival
Activities begin now with the Chocolate Bake-off contest sponsored by the Peppermill. Visit their web site to enter your famous and favorite chocolate treat, hamiltonpeppermill.com. The judging occurs during the morning of the festival with the winners receiving their prizes at the Peppermill about noon. Visitors to the Great Chocolate Wreck are welcome to sample any left-overs, if the judges leave any.
The Hamilton Movie Theater, 824-2724, will show the original “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” at noon Saturday Sept. 22. The free movie is made possible with the sponsorship of the Colgate Bookstore.
The Barge Canal, 824-4331 hosts the Ode to Chocolate poetry slam starting with a brief workshop at 6 p.m. Thursday Sept. 27. There, you can express your innermost feelings about chocolate.
The Sherburne Music Theatre Society presents “Just Desserts” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday Sept. 29 at the Palace Theatre. Tickets are available at the Palace door for only $7.
“Come discover who killed the judge,” von Mechow said
The Earlville Opera House, earlvilleoperahouse.com., presents a free family event, “The Chocolate War” by the Open Hand Puppet Theater, at 3 p.m. on Sunday Sept. 30 at the Palace Theater. Open Hand Theater’s vibrant puppets of all shapes and sizes, some over 12 feet tall, are taking on the issue of bullying and escalating conflict in a colorful and delightful imaginary land inhabited by juggling dwarfs, stretchy bouncing giants, friendly flowers and other wise musical beings.
“These wonderful events surround the Great Chocolate Wreck on the village green from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday Sept. 29,” von Mechow said. “Come to Hamilton for the most delicious festival around!”
This project is made possible with funds from the Art Creating Community Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, administered by the Central New York Community Arts Council, Inc., The Partnership for Community Development, the Village of Hamilton, Community Memorial Hospital, Oneida Savings Bank, Den Kelly, NBT Bank, Alliance Bank, Parry’s Hardware, Hamilton Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine and Burt Marshall. Contact the Partnership for Community Development at 825-3537 or partnersatwork.org for more information.