Editors Journal: Amtrak Dinner at The Matthews House


Story and photos by Hal Goodtree.

Cary, NC – The air was mild on Wednesday evening, and the sun was slanting through the pear blossoms. It was a perfect night for a cozy dinner at The Matthews House to kick around some ideas for Cary Train Day 2013.

Planning Cary Train Day 2013

The Amtrak dinner, as it was called, brought together representatives from Amtrak, the Town of Cary and members of HoCA, the Heart of Cary Association.

The purpose of the dinner was to follow-up on the success of Cary Train Day 2012. That event, a first in Cary, drew more than 1,000 people, making it one of the largest celebrations of Train Day in the United States.

Amtrak subsequently returned to Cary to shoot a national TV commercial. On Wednesday, the team from 2012 got together again to plan for this year’s celebration on Saturday, May 11, 2013.

Mingling: The Buzz in Downtown

The Matthews House, a beautifully restored Greek Revival mansion on West Chatham, oozed Southern charm and sophistication in the golden light of sunset. I felt like a million bucks, like a character in a movie starring Viv Leigh. The Matthews House does that to you.

Drinking a dry Cabernet, exchanging pleasantries with the other guests, I learned that the roundabout currently under construction on West Chatham could be opened for traffic by the end of this month.

The East Chatham roundabout at East Durham Road will be completed before Lazy Daze in August. I predict these projects will have a transformative effect on the feeling of Downtown Cary and create a much stronger sense of place.

I also learned that construction on the downtown movie theater, which is to be called The Cary, is progressing smartly and may be open by the end of October. Driving past on East Chatham, you can see two steel beams protruding from the brick. The beams will hold up the marquee sign. There was talk of having an event when the marquee is installed.

The Cary will have removable seats in the first few rows, allowing the space to be converted into a nightclub or a dance floor. Programming will likely include movies, live theater, music and comedy.

Talking Train Day

The first course was a Caprese salad of arugula, mozzarella and ripe Roma tomatoes. Talk turned to Train Day.

The celebration kicks off with the arrival of the Amtrak Carolinian at 10:02 AM. There will be food, exhibits, games for kids, the Cary Town Band, remarks from elected officials and perhaps a downtown tram. This year, we may see a train ride at the festivities. The fun continues all morning and into the afternoon.

Also on Train Day, from 12-7 PM, the south end of Academy Street will come alive with the 9th Annual Ritmo Latino festival.

We cut into our dinner of chicken scallopini with baked vegetables, succulent and rich. In a boost to downtown, Amtrak is offering $5 kids’ tickets from anywhere in North Carolina to Cary on Train Day. I was like the dessert on top of an already sumptuous meal.

Then we ate cheesecake and strawberries.

Thanks to Doc Thorne and the Heart of Cary Association for organizing the dinner, the Ogle’s for their hospitality, Amtrak and Town of Cary for all their efforts. It was an honor to be there.

Cary has been a train town since 1856. Be a part of history this year on Train Day in Cary, Saturday, May 11. 2013.


From Cary Train Day 2012.

4 replies
  1. Brent
    Brent says:

    I am looking forward to Train Day on May 11 and I hope everyone comes to downtown Cary for the festivities.

    In addition to all the happenings at the Depot, don’t forget to stop by the Page-Walker Arts & History Center on Town Hall campus to enjoy the activities there also.

    That beautiful 1868 building was built as a railroad hotel, so you can bet we’ll be celebrating Train Day there!

  2. David Robinson
    David Robinson says:

    With eight passenger trains each day (Silver Star, Carolinian and two Piedmonts – both directions), Cary is probably better-served than any other town of similar size, anywhere in the USA. And it’s clear that local officials and its residents know this. Congratulations on 2012’s Train Day – may 2013’s be even more successful.

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