Years ago, when Dennis Bergin first got the job as Lula’s city manager, he was given some advice he said he remembers to this day.
“One of the lieutenants gave me the best advice,” Bergin said. “He said ‘I’ve been coming to this thing for years. Don’t change anything.’”
So he hasn’t. Lula’s Railroad Days Parade and Festival will celebrate its 42nd year on Saturday, May 12, starting with its annual parade at 10 a.m. that leads to the historic Lula train depot, where the festival will take place.
The city recently acquired the train depot, and Bergin said during this year’s event, they’ll be able to communicate their hopes for it to the community.
The main goal, he said, is “to make improvements all related to the community,” in order to make events like Railroad Days successful for years to come.
Bergin estimates about 5,000 people come out for the event to see the floats and meander through the 80-plus arts, crafts and food vendors.
“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s the type of festival and parade you just won’t find anymore,” Bergin said. “Overall, it seems whatever we do, we’ve done for years and it’s worked pretty well and hasn’t changed.”
He said Railroad Days draws crowds from as many as 40 miles away. Some people park their cars along the parade route the night before to make sure they have a good view of the event as it passes by.
Even though there will be arts and crafts to look at and purchase, bounce houses and inflatable slides for children, live entertainment for all ages and plenty of festival food, Bergin said the parade is really about celebrating the community.
Lula is a railroad town, which is where the name of the festival came from in the first place. Bergin said “before Gainesville was even a blip on the map,” Lula was a shipping hub for farming and agriculture products. It still has nine trains come through the city every day.
“After 42 years, you’ve taught the public what to expect, which brings them back year after year,” Bergin said.