Thursday, June 20, 2024
HomeBusinessJulebyen: 1,416 Train Riders, 2,832 Rider Contacts – WOW!

Julebyen: 1,416 Train Riders, 2,832 Rider Contacts – WOW!

Amazing that a dilapidated depot in danger of falling down 3 1/2 years ago could greet 1,416 Julebyen train riders and board them for a total of 2,832 rider contacts! Plus keep them warm and serve them cocoa.

The stats are in. The Julebyen Express brought 444 folks to the festival over the two-day event. While there, the train carried 972 people in five scheduled trains to Troll Canyon in search of trolls. All trains departed and returned on schedule and all riders safely boarded and unboarded. Many thanks to the depot “Platform Agents” (I am learning RR jargon) who sold the tickets and kept those arriving and departing by from bumping into each other, and off the 24’ railroad right-ofway.

Huge thanks to the North Shore Scenic Railroad for allowing the Julebyen Express to serve as Troll Trains during Julebyen at no cost to us!


One could think so judging by the zip codes of the 444 who rode the Julebyen Express over the weekend. The North Shore Scenic Railroad shared the following info with the KRHCC and it is quite revealing.

101– 250 miles: 45%
251 + miles: 6%
0 -10 miles: 27%
11 – 25 miles: 5%
26 -50 miles: 10%
51 -100 miles: 7%

Amazing just over half lived 100 or more miles away. They may have been in the area for other reasons, of course, but nevertheless Julebyen was something they wanted to experience.

People from out of the area spend money locally and that speaks well to the charge given the KRHCC by the Rail Authority–– that our activities support economic development.


Officer Mary impresses troll seekers with
her official “Troll Patrol/Troll Control”
badge. (Photo credit: Paul von Goertz)

Recognition of the work of the Knife River “Troll Patrol” is long overdue.

Bob and Mary McDonald live in the Homestead Road area. According to Mary, who is quite the storyteller, about five years ago they were asked by the Governor’s office if they would investigate reported troll sightings that generally occur right before Julebyen, and report back to his office. Apparently, the excitement and all the prep work of an approaching Julebyen arouses the curiosity of trolls.

Being responsible citizens, Bob and Mary agreed to investigate the presence of trolls at Julebyen and organized a “Troll Patrol/Troll Control.” Because they act in an official capacity, they felt it proper to dress in uniforms, display badges and place proper signage on their SUV.

Here’s how the Troll Patrol gig works: The Troll Trains slow down at Homestead Road and the McDonald’s hop on. As the train continues to Troll Canyon they give their report, and no surprise – trolls had been sighted that very morning!

Mary and Madeline Jarvis, TH library Director and Troll Train storyteller, share the train’s PA to build excitement for the eminent appearance of trolls. Meanwhile, Bob McDonald hands out bells to the children, as we all know trolls do not like noise. Once the train departs Troll Canyon, the McDonalds hop off at Homestead Road – ready to bring the next Troll Train the news of the latest troll sightings.

Says Mary McDonald, “We wanted to help with the Troll Train, to bring in a more interactive element with the folks on the train and the trolls outside. To give an air of authenticity, I guess.

We do it year after year because it’s so incredibly gratifying to be a little part of the fantasy – to see the kids become excited and willing to suspend disbelief for just a little bit. Hearing all the kids ringing their bells is fantastic!

We’re humbled to be included in the community of Knife River and we so enjoy being able to give a little back!”

“Three Troll Train tickets please!’ (Photo credit: Paul von Goertz)
*Each image used with the permission of a parent.


Festivalgoers often ask volunteers how a small community like Knife River (Population 350 by zip code) can host a destination festival that attracts 4,000(?) people. For sure it is hard work at times (and stressful), but for most of us, it’s fun!

“The best gift is the one that can’t be returned.”

I first heard this pearl of wisdom in a sermon given by Pastor Susan Berge of Knife River Lutheran Church. I was going to give the credit for it to Pastor Susan, but thought I better check to see if it had been said before. It had – by Jesus Christ.

 Now whether Christian or not, I believe every Julebyen volunteer finds deep satisfaction by giving the gift of their time and energy to folks that can’t return it. Just look at the happy faces of the children in the image below*! If you would like to volunteer for Julebyen 2023, email this year’s chair, Helene Hedlund at hhedlund.dl@gmail.com

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