As I have done these Rail Fests for 16 years, it has become a regular routine to hold one for the Winter in mid-January, and one longer Summer event in July. This has provided a 6-month leeway between events.
Several core members of our group have expressed the desire to move the Summer event from July to another time. We have discussed this briefly during Sunday chat sessions, and also a few of us talked about it in person at the most recent Fest. A few reasons to change it include:
- Higher temperatures in July, coupled with desire to visit such places as Florida, Texas, Arizona, etc.
- With higher temperatures comes higher likelihood of heat related rail issues such as heat kinks and associated slow orders.
- High season in many locations means higher hotel prices. We ran into such issues this past PCRF event with soaring hotel rates in Seattle and Portland. For some, the ability to participate in the Fest hinged only on the availability of loyalty program points that could be redeemed to stay in these hotels.
- Higher Amtrak fares in busy Summer months. Along with this comes the new Amtrak Guest Rewards rules that went into effect earlier this year, which likewise mean spending more points for travel than when the fares are cheaper.
- More families travelling in Summer. Nothing against children, but some do get antsy during long train rides.
- More people travelling means more frazzled crews on long distance trains.
I also heard reasons for not moving the Fests out of July. We have one core regular participant in the education profession, which obviously favors taking vacations in the Summer months.
So if not July, then when? Most, if not all, of the above arguments against July would also apply in the most adjacent months, June and August. And then that brings us to May or September. May isn't Summer at all, and the last third of September isn't either. But it can still be warm and comfortable in both months.
I also heard some reasons against May or September:
- Graduations take place in May or June, depending on school calendars in various parts of the country.
- September is football season for those who care about pro games, or who coach high school teams.
- September is peak of hurricane season.
- Memorial Day takes place in late May. Labor Day takes place in early September. We would want to avoid periods around both.
- Mothers Day - 2nd Sunday in May. Travel during this weekend would not be a problem, but eating in restaurants if not on long distance trains would be a concern. A Fest could be scheduled to ensure we are travelling that day.
So where does that leave us? Here is our forum to discuss our views. Perhaps I missed some of the pro's and con's for either moving the summer Fest or leaving it where it is.
Please note that this would NOT have any effect on our Winter Fests, since the Martin Luther King holiday weekend has seemed to work for everyone. Moving the Summer trip to a month other than July would create a longer wait between Fests depending on where it ends up.
No final decisions have yet been made at this time, so please let's talk here about this first.