Thursday, 01 December 2011 10:56

CPR Holiday Train built up steam over the years

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By Jessi Gowan — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For the past 12 years, Canadian Pacific has been helping needy families over the Christmas season with its annual Holiday Train fundraiser. Since 1999, the train has raised nearly 5.6 million dollars and more than 2.5 million pounds of food for food banks all across North America.

“We have two trains, one that operates in the U.S. and one that operates in Canada,” explained Kevin Hrysak, spokesperson with CP. “We hit about 150 communities across the network.”

The train is comprised of 14 decorated and lit box cars, and pulled by a decorated locomotive. The main feature of the train is the old car that has been renovated into a stage, where musical acts and other entertainment and announcements take place. The locomotive also pulls four business cars, which house riders and provide a temporary home for staff and entertainment.

“It only takes us about five to 10 minutes to do our setup once we get to our location,” Hrysak noted.

“The stage drops, smoke comes out, and we open with a song.”

From there, CP representatives and community officials have the opportunity to make speeches before the cheque presentation to the local food bank. After more entertainment and a visit from Santa Claus, the train is on to its next destination.

“The way that we have it set up is that we bring the entertainment and attraction, and look to local food banks in the communities to set up the actual event,” said Hrysak. “Most of our communities really do an amazing job, we have had great support at almost all of our stops.”

The event planning and decorating begins in early April, with upkeep and maintenance to the train ongoing throughout the summer months. The bulk of the work starts in the middle of August and runs right through until the end of the season. CP hires an outside contractor to assist with booking entertainment, and tries to ensure there is a variety of performers each year. This year will feature Valdy and Tracey Brown.

“While this is a free event, we do ask that anyone coming to enjoy the festive entertainment bring a

non-perishable food item or donation,” Hrysak added. “One dollar to the food bank is worth $4 purchasing power. With hundreds of thousands of Canadians using food banks each month, support needs to happen year-round. We are trying to boost donations and raise awareness with our annual event.”

The money raised and donated at each stop stays within that community. That way, each community is supporting its local food bank.

“We want to help give back to the communities where we operate,” Hrysak explained. “It’s important to us to help out wherever we can.”

The CPR Holiday train will be in southwest Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta Dec. 7.

It will arrive in Swift Current at 12:20 p.m.; Maple Creek 3:15 p.m.; Medicine Hat at 4:45 p.m., Tilley at 7 p.m. and Brooks at 8:30 p.m.

For addresses, please see community calendar on Page B16 of this week’s Prairie Post or on the events calendar of the website.

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