National Orphan Train Complex to Host 20th Annual Celebration of Orphan Train Riders

National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia
National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia

The National Orphan Train Complex will celebrate its 20th Anniversary this summer.

The Complex's Museum and Research Center are dedicated to the preservation of the stories and artifacts of those who were part of the Orphan Train Movement from 1854 to 1929.

The mission of the National Orphan Train Complex is to collect, preserve, interpret, and disseminate knowledge about the orphan trains, and the children and agents who rode them.  The museum's collections, exhibitions, programming, and research will instill a sense of pride for Riders and Descendants; engage historians and researchers, heritage visitors, and the general public; and further promote understanding of this nationally significant chapter of cultural and social history.

June 1st through June 3rd, the National Orphan Train Complex plans to celebrate 20 years of research, education and preservation during its Annual Celebration of Orphan Train Riders.

Kaily Carson, Curator of the National Orphan Train Complex, says the celebrations began as reunions of Orphan Train Riders and their descendants. 

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This year, the three-day event will include a public birthday party and open house from 1 pm to 4 pm on Saturday, June 3rd.

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This year's keynote speaker is author and researcher Andrea Warren.  Warren grew up in Newman Grove, Nebraska.  She graduated from the University of Nebraska and began teaching high school English and history in Hastings, Nebraska.  While teaching, she wrote her first stories for publication. 

Andrea later moved to Lawrence, Kansas to complete a second master's degree and then began her career as a freelance writer. 

In 1996, Houghton Mifflin published her first nonfiction book for young readers, "Orphan Train Rider: One Boy's True Story."  Her other nonfiction books for young readers tell the stories of children who lived through US Western migration, the American Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. Her books have won many awards, including the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for "Orphan Train Rider." 

In addition to writing, Andrea also visits schools and libraries to talk about her books and the process of researching and writing history.

Warren will be speaking at Cloud County Community College in Concordia on Friday, June 2nd at 11 am.

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Other guest speakers this year include Orphan Train Rider descendent Gary Nolan, who has two Orphan Train Riders in his family's history, discussing his family research history done through DNA research, as well as Orphan Train Rider Head Researcher Lori Halfhide.

Registration for the entire weekend of events is $60 per person and includes all celebration events and meals.  Those who do not register may still attend events, but if seating is limited, priority will be given to those who have registered.

Carson says the last day to register is Monday, May 15th.

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For a complete listing of events, visit the National Orphan Train Complex web site at, or contact Carson at (785) 243-4471.

Local sponsors for this year's celebration are 4 Kids Fuel & More, The Citizens National Bank, Cloud County Tourism, Neil and Brenda Losh, Coldwell Banker Kaleidoscope Realty, Duis Meat Processing, Elk State Bank, F & A Food Sales Inc, Gerard Tank & Steel, Inc., Reliable Heating and Air Conditioning LLC, Rolling Hills Electric Cooperative, Inc., Thummel Real Estate & Auction, LLC, H&R Block-Beloit, Malone Financial LLC, Susan Sutton, Gary and Joan Fraser, and Joe Aillet.