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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Firemen's Competition
The Appomattox Volunteer Fire Department competes in the "Water Battle," 1999 Photo: Bobby Swanberg

The Historic Appomattox Railroad Festival

Since the arrival in 1850 of the Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad (today known as the Norfolk Southern), the railroad has played a vital role in the development of Appomattox. In 1865, General Lee retreated toward Appomattox with the strategy of capturing Union supply trains, but Sheridan's cavalry forced back the advance of the Confederate guard and foiled Lee's plan. A few days later, on April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Court House.

Appomattox continued to develop as a trade and business center built around the railroad, but the 1960s and '70s saw its decline due to competition from shopping centers located next to arterial highways. In October 1973, the Historic Appomattox Railroad Festival was first held to attempt to reverse that decline and foster renewal and restoration of Appomattox's downtown. Centered on the railroad theme, today the festival attracts a crowd of over 25,000. Highlights of the annual celebration include a live bands, arts and crafts demonstrations, fireworks, a fireman's competition, "Good Ole' Days," showing how items were made at the turn of the century, and the "Teddy Bear March," a parade featuring children marching with their most prized teddy bears. Documentation includes photographs and a report tracing the history of the festival.

Originally submitted by: Virgil Goode, Jr., Representative (5th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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