Jim Letheby, a lifelong resident of Hampshire, received his first model train from his father when he was 11 months old, and has collected them ever since.
Now, Letheby and his own family display those model trains on a large interactive train layout at festivals throughout the region, including in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Kids and families can press buttons and make the figures on the table move, Letheby said.
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What: Hampshire Coon Creek Country Days
When: 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday, 6 p.m. to midnight Friday, 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Bruce Ream Park, 400 W. Jefferson Ave.
"They can interact with the trains and come and go as they please," he said. "Some of the children just stand there in awe. It's so much fun. We love it."
The Lethebys' upcoming train display can be found at Hampshire's Coon Creek Country Days, a festival that will take place Thursday through Sunday at Bruce Ream Park, 400 W. Jefferson Ave.
Letheby's booth will be located inside the Hampshire Township Building, 170 Mill St. Letheby said his family brought their model trains to the Coon Creek Country Days festival many years ago, but they had a booth outside, which was a risk because of the weather. They are returning now because "we have someplace nice where we can be inside," he said.
General admission to the festival is free, but funds raised throughout the weekend will go toward local charities and organizations, including the Burlington-Hampshire Food Pantry.
The festival will offer many opportunities for live entertainment. Local bands and performers will be featured throughout the weekend. Fireworks will also be displayed Saturday night at dusk.
Children and families can participate in other activities as well, such as the carnival and the corn eating contest.
Food and beverage vendors will be available throughout the festival grounds.
The best part of a festival like this, Letheby said, is being able to both entertain and educate those who visit his display. Both parents and children ask many questions about the model trains, he said, and some parents even start encouraging their kids to start a collection.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, the Letheby family's display will be open to the public and will feature many of the trains that Letheby has collected throughout the years.
But not the train his father gave him, he said. That one, he leaves at home.
"It's too special to me," Letheby said.