Andy and Kalli Ameres, owners of Shake Station restaurant in Ellenton, woke up in the darkness Sunday along with just about everyone else in Manatee County due to the arrival of Daylight Saving Time.
But their son Emmanuel, 2, who usually sleeps until it gets light, was already up.
Emmanuel knew something special was going to happen Sunday, and he didn’t care that it was still a bit scary outside, his father said.
“He was ready to go in the dark,” Andy Ameres said with a grin.
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Emmanuel Ameres, like hundreds of other young children across Florida, had an appointment with Thomas the Tank Engine, and nothing was going to stand in the way of that.
It’s still one of the mysteries of the universe — why kids love a train with a face — but there was no doubt Sunday that kids still adore the smiling Thomas, and parents love seeing their kids get excited.
Andy and Kalli Ameres were among parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, friends and guardians escorting hundreds of tots during Sunday’s seven “Day Out With Thomas” 25-minute rail excursions at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish.
Thomas the Tank Engine, which is hooked up to the museum’s train for the rides, finishes its Manatee tour this coming Friday through Sunday, March 17-19, at the museum.
The train ride itself is an experience
Shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday, Thomas, with his dimpled face, was still not moving an inch.
Engineer Mark Manley told the kids and adults sitting in the vintage railroad cars behind Thomas that they all had to chant, “Go Thomas, go!” over and over to get Thomas rolling.
Kids and adults screamed “Go Thomas go!” It was wonderful fun for all judging by their faces.
“We’re going!” an amazed and delighted Manley roared when the train finally lurched into motion.
The Ameres family was joined in the car closest to Thomas by a stellar collection of adults and kids, a collection that showed how far people will travel for their children.
Harry and Michaele Allen drove more than 150 miles from Melbourne to Parrish so their 2-year-old son, Nathan, could be first in line on the 9 a.m. Sunday train.
Richard and Danielle Cameron left St. Petersburg in the dark so they could be on the first Thomas train as well with their kids, 7-year-old Khali, 4-year-old Alaya and 1-year-old Ellis.
Tim and Melissa St. Pierre left Tampa in the dark so they could also be on the first Thomas train with their two young children.
Thomas’ TV show captures kids
Lorenzo Rediker, one of many volunteers with Florida Railroad Museum, said kids like Thomas because, well, because he’s Thomas.
“The kids are so excited just to see him in real life after seeing him on TV,” Rediker said. “They come in dressed like little engineers, both girls and boys, and they have a great time, really an excellent time.”
“I give out Thomas passports,” Rediker added. “The kids can go to various stations to get it stamped and they get free gifts for it.”
Kids first fall in love with Thomas through the “Thomas & Friends” TV show, which is based on the The Railway Series of books by The Rev. Wilbert Awdry and his son, Christopher Awdry, the Camerons said.
The books tell the story of life on the fictional Island of Sodor, where locomotives and other vehicles talk and have feelings and solve problems.
As a tot himself, Richard Cameron was a Superman fan. When Danielle was a child, she adored Punky Brewster, a young girl raised by a foster parent.
“My kids like that Thomas is kind,” Danielle Cameron said. “And, he’s a problem solver.”
“It’s a train, something that goes,” Harry Allen said in describing why he thought his son, Nathan, loved Thomas so much.
“It moves and it has the right colors,” Michaele Allen said. “It’s a simple story for them to understand.”
And that story will likely be repeated by hundreds more loving parents next weekend.
If you go
- What: “Day Out With Thomas”
- When: Rides start every hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 17-19
- Where: Florida Railroad Museum, 12210 83rd St. E., Parrish
- Cost: $23
- Information: 941-776-0906