Starting with Thomas the Tank Engine this weekend, several upcoming events could temporarily close Williams streets.
At its April 25 regularly scheduled meeting, Williams City Council gave staff approval to proceed with plans to close the 200 block of North Grand Canyon Boulevard for Thomas the train events from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday as well as during this same hours on May 17, 18 and 19. This is the block of North Grand Canyon Boulevard directly in front of Grand Canyon Railway (GCR) Depot.
During the closure, thru traffic heading south on the street will be rerouted west onto Franklin Avenue, south onto to Seventh Street and east onto Route 66 in the same manner it was rerouted during railroad crossing construction in that block two summers ago.
Ervin H. White, GCR train master, requested the closure to ensure the safety of the large number of small children anticipated in the area during the event.
He said Thomas the Tank Engine will depart the depot seven times each day for a 25-minute excursion. He pointed out he attended this event in Sacramento, Calif., April 10 where it attracted 4,000 people per day.
“We’re prepared for 1,000 people on Friday and 2,000 on Saturday and six train cars on slower days, with eight cars on heavy days,” White said. “We’ve found from other places that families will spend 3.5 hours on site and usually stay two or three days in the area.”
He said with the street closed to traffic, they’re likely to head downtown.
“With that many people to keep occupied, we should see a lot of business,” said Pat Carpenter, council member.
During the upcoming filming of the movie, “Destiny,” Vista Productions has requested the closure of several streets from 6 a.m. May 16 until 6 a.m. May 18.
At that time, the film company wants to close Route 66 from First to Fourth streets, Third Street from Route 66 to Grant Avenue and Second Street to Grant Avenue. In addition, Third Street between Grant Avenue and Sheridan Avenue will need to be closed for about two hours on May 17.
Jerry Marshall, location manager for the film company, said to expect around 80 crew members and 10 extras on site who would be likely to frequent local businesses and restaurants.
“I’ve never seen them not have a major impact on a small town,” he said. “I guarantee it will be a good thing.”
Diana Croteau, Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce office manager, said filming will get underway at Mountain Side Inn Thursday and continue in Bellemont through the May 16.
She said she would begin contacting area businesses and residents this week to get their feedback on the proposed closures.
To accommodate the History Channel Great Race on June 19, the chamber has requested that Route 66 between First and Seventh streets be closed 8 a.m.-midnight. During that time, two-way traffic will be allowed on Railroad Avenue between First and Seventh streets.
This year Williams will be an overnight stop for around 100 vintage racecars participating in the transcontinental rally. The town named best overnight stop will get a $5,000 prize for its library.
Croteau said as many as 5,000 people are projected to be in town for the event.
Michael F. Vasquez, HOG (Harley Owners Group) Rally chair, said additional closures will be needed June 20-22 to accommodate that event.
Rather than approve any closures in addition to the 200 block of North Grand Canyon Boulevard for Thomas the train, Don Dent, council member, urged Croteau to canvass those affected by the closures and get their reaction.
“I want to wait and see what their comments are before we vote on it,” Dent said.
The proposed closures will be on the agenda at the next city council meeting set for 7 p.m. Thursday at city hall, 113 S. First St.