Each summer, the National Orphan Train Complex hosts a Celebration of Orphan Train Riders to commemorate the orphan train movement. 2023 marks the 20th Celebration since the
Complex’s organization in 2003. The event will take place June 1 through June 3 in Concordia, Kansas.
The event will begin at 3:00pm on Thursday, June 1 at the National Orphan Train Complex with the unveiling of two new memorial plaques for orphan train riders Fred Engert Swedenburg and Lela Lavine Newcombe. Tours of Concordia’s tourist attractions will follow.
On Friday, June 2, events move to Cloud County Community College. Past National Orphan Train Complex curators will share their memories of the Complex and head researcher Lori Halfhide will present a history of the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America and the National Orphan Train Complex. Following their presentations, keynote speaker Andrea Warren will share her experience as an early orphan train researcher and author. Warren’s two books on the orphan train, “Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story” and “We Rode the Orphan Trains” have won numerous awards and recommendations from PBS, Booklist, the American Library Association, Scholastic Book Club, and many more.
Friday afternoon orphan train descendant Gary Nolan will share his journey of discovering his family roots through DNA research. Following his talk, a new orphan train statue will be unveiled at Hood Park in Concordia. Friday evening will also feature a screening of the PBS
American Experience documentary “Orphan Train”.
Events on Saturday, June 3 will take place at the National Orphan Train Complex. A silent auction will be open all morning, with proceeds going towards much needed facility repairs and the National Orphan Train Complex museum. Complex curator Kaily Carson will speak about preserving family heirlooms, and then orphan train rider family members and friends will have
time to share their memories. The three-day event will conclude with a public birthday party and open house from 1pm to 4pm.
For a complete listing of events, visit the National Orphan Train Complex web site at www.orphantraindepot.com, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/orphantraindepot, or contact museum curator Kaily Carson at (785) 243-4471.
Registration for the entire weekend of events is $60 per person and includes all celebration events and meals Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. Those who do not register may still attend events, but if seating is limited, priority will be given to those who have registered.
Meals must be registered for in advance. Registration forms can be found at www.orphantraindepot.com or at the National Orphan Train Complex. The last day to register is May 15.
The National Orphan Train Complex is dedicated to the preservation of stories and artifacts of those who were part of the orphan train movement. The museum features displays of orphan train riders, families who took the children, placement agencies and the agents who accompanied the children on the trains, and the more recent history of collecting the stories.
This year’s Celebration is underwritten by 4 Kids Properties LLC, Citizens National Bank, Cloud County Convention and Tourism, Coldwell Banker/Kaleidoscope Realty, Duis Meat Processing, Elk State Bank, F&A Food Sales, Gerard Tank and Steel, Reliable Heating and Cooling, Rolling Hills Electric Cooperative, Thummel Real Estate and Auction, Gary and Joan Fraser, H & R Block Beloit, Susan Sutton, and Joe Aillet.