All of a sudden, we took a turn and found the Country Fair. It was loaded with rides, like little cars to drive, plus a merry-go-round, and it all sat in the middle of the Tweetsie Railroad theme park, encircled by the active train tracks of the three-mile-long Tweetsie Railroad.
Boone, Blowing Rock, and the High Country of North Carolina have changed in the past 40 years. Certainly, Appalachian State University has grown, adding buildings all over Boone. And the lodging of the High Country has expanded from mom-and-pop motels to big cabins, condos and the comforts of places like the LaQuinta, built like a extended mountain lodge, as warm as your grandfather's house, and cozily snug at the center of Boone.
But Tweetsie? Well, it still looks as shiny and new as it must have in 1972, when I took a ride on the Tweetsie Railroad at Blowing Rock, NC. The centerpiece of the theme park remains the train. It was nicknamed "Tweetsie" for the sound of its whistle and, long before the park was established in the 1950s, it once ran between Johnson City, TN, and Boone, NC.
Some 39 years ago, I came here as a wide-eyed, three-year-old kid, much like my four-year-old son, John, in 2011. I rode the train, and I wanted to hear that whistle blow. I also hunkered down when the cowboys and Indians got into a battle at Fort Boone - all part of Tweetsie's railside adventure.
Tweetsie now boasts a few mildly thrilling rides, like the Tornado, Free Fall and Round-Up. Among them, I sampled the dizzying Tilt-a-Whirl and simply-fun Tweetsie Twister. Still, a large focus remains on what you can do with a little one, especially a kid about John's age. And, as for me, as a daddy, there remains nothing as magical as coming home, a week later, and still hearing my son talk about Tweetsie. He imitated the Tweetsie train whistle just like I did in the '70s. And he still relished wearing his conductor's cap - a souvenir of a timeless theme park, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.