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Holiday Train is coming to town

Wednesday, 06 December 2017. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Holiday Train is coming to town
Photo by Brenda Shenton

Holiday Train is coming to town

By Auralea Boldt

“It’s gotten so popular, every little town has been trying to get it to stop,” says Pincher Creek town councillor Wayne Elliot.

You could say Wayne is a bit of an enthusiast when it comes to the CP Rail Holiday Train.

His Facebook profile even features the train as his cover photo.

While he’s slightly disappointed the train will be coming on a Monday afternoon this year — he likes to see it  at night — he’s being a good sport.

He recognizes the community is lucky to host the train, which alternates between a northern and southern route on its yearly pilgrimage.

He starts fielding inquiries as early as the summer about the train’s itinerary.

Wayne is a bit of an insider; he’s been aboard the train, and knows all about the logistical challenges the staff and performers face.

“The time schedule is so tight it’s unreal,” he says.

He had a hand in bringing the train to Pincher Station its first year, back in 2007.

While he was soliciting the train to come to town, he discovered he had worked for the same company as a CP Rail employee, who happened to be one of the “ringleaders” of the event.

While previous years have featured famous performers such as Valdy, this year’s stops across Canada — including Pincher Station and Coleman — will feature performances by Canadian musician Alan Doyle, best known as the lead singer of Great Big Sea.

The train arrives in Pincher Station on Monday, Dec. 11, at 11:05 a.m., and will stop in Coleman at 1:05 p.m., south of 17th Avenue between 69th and 70th streets.

Both stops are scheduled for 30 minutes.

“This is such a unique event,” says Marie Everts, Pincher Creek’s marketing, events and economic development officer.

“The train pulls up, folds down a stage, and Pincher Creek gets a wonderful Christmas performance.”

“All attendees are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to the event, to support the food bank,” she says. “Cash and gift cards are also gratefully accepted.”

At over 1,000 feet long, with 14 cars — each lit up with thousands of LED lights — the Holiday Train adds more than a pretty face to Christmas in communities.

Susan Kuftinoff, co-ordinator of McMan Food Bank in Pincher Creek, says that in previous years, with the combined support of the community and corporate sponsors, the event has netted as much as $10,000 and 900 pounds of food.

Since 1999, more than $13 million has been raised, and four million pounds of food has been donated, for communities along CP’s holiday routes.

“The Holiday Train program is all about local food banks and food shelves and the critical role they play in our communities,” says Keith Creel, CP’s president and CEO.

“People come for the beautifully lit train and stay for the incredible show — all in the name of community.”

Susan says any non-perishable items you can donate are greatly needed for hampers at this time of year. Items such as boxed stuffing, cranberries, canned fruit and soup, and dry goods like pasta, pickles and cookies add a special touch to Christmas hampers.

Wayne encourages attendees to check dates and make sure items are not stale or expired.

The rule of thumb should be “If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t send it,” he says. “People are very generous and it all goes to a good cause.”

He loves to see the event well attended, admires the spirit of the performers, and is crossing his fingers that the weather will be good this year.

“You drop that stage down and you get a burst of southern Alberta hospitality in your face,” he says.

By this he means the wind, not the applause.

“You step out on that stage — and holy!”