Behind-the-scenes look at Railroad Days 2006

When Valley residents head to downtown Snoqualmie to enjoy Railroad Days Aug. 4-6, they should not forget the two individuals that have led the behind-the-scenes effort to make it all possible: festival president Tove Warmerdam and vice president Wes Sorstokke.

Last August, Warmerdam heard from a friend that Diane Humes, who had been involved with organizing the festival for nearly 20 years, wanted to retire from the role and was having difficulty finding someone to fill it.

"There was gossip that the festival was going to end because they didn't have anyone to step up to the plate," said Warmerdam, who moved to the Valley five years ago. "I thought it would be sad to have a 67 - this is our 68th year - tradition go down."

She made some phone calls, met with Humes and got to work. Warmerdam is a stay-at-home mom with four young children ranging in age from four months to 11 years. She said that heading the festival as a volunteer has allowed her to spend time with her family and help coordinate all the myriad details that are involved in an event of this complexity.

Warmerdam said she is driven by her concern for the town. "I love the Valley," she said. "It's an amazing community and I love being part of it." That does not mean that the job has always been a fun or especially enjoyable one.

"The ups and downs of any festival, especially when you are new, is having all those little things go wrong," she said. Thankfully, former festival presidents Humes and Lisa Schaffer have been there for her. A critical part of her success, she said, is her hard-working volunteer committee, whom she calls her "Choo-choo crew," composed of husband David Warmerdam, Sorstokke, Chrissy Kelly, Julie Randazzo, Harold Nesland, Jill Rothgeb, Mark Rothgeb, Krys Van Brunt, Phil Chesnut, Michael Roe, Ray Sneesby, Lisa and Jim Schaffer and Robert Keaton.

Warmerdam admited she puts in many long hours working on the festival. "My husband is glad I have unlimited cell phone minutes," she said. David Warmerdam was initially wary of how much time his wife would have to devote to such a mammoth undertaking, but he has also been impressed by her desire to get involved in the community.

Sorstokke is owner, along with his wife Sharon, of the Snoqualmie Falls Candy Factory & Cafe. They have lived in Carnation for the past 25 years and have owned the candy store for about nine years. Sorstokke's role has been primarily that of vendor liaison for Warmerdam, since he has experience as a vender himself at other local festivals.

"I just volunteered ... Tove was looking for help because the other people decided that after so many years they weren't going to do it anymore, they'd done it a long time," said Sorstokke. During the event, Sorstokke will work as vender coordinator in addition to supervising his own packed restaurant. "It's usually our biggest weekend of the year," said Sorstokke. He will have to try and be both places at once since it will be his job to diplomatically situate the various vendors. Upwards of 60 vendors are expected to take part in the festival.

"Someone - whether it's a vender or somebody that helped out - somebody's always going to come out not too happy, so my goal is to try and do the impossible and keep everybody happy and hope that everybody has a fantastic, fun weekend," he said.

He did confess that Warmerdam has worked the hardest of anyone involved in the project. "She took this on and wants to do it and just sort of doles things out she needs people to do, but she's really the one who's doing all the work," he said. "Tove deserves 98 percent of the credit, really. She's worked very hard on it ... she's done most everything."

"As far as the ups and downs of helping with this event, it takes a lot of time and energy, but it's such a great happening," said Sorstokke. "This is Snoqualmie's biggest event of the year and many vendors, regulars and newcomers come into our town for a very exciting, fun-filled weekend."

Warmerdam agreed. "We are excited about this year's festival, and planning many more. We've heard the bad gossip that this is our last year ... No, it's definitely not," she said.

"We cannot wait for two years from now having an amazing 70th year. Railroad Days is a wonderful family event that brings together our entire community ... the beautiful downtown full of our families, friends and businesses all right across from our train station."

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