The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train program was dubbed as another outstanding success in year 17 according to information released by CP this past week.
The train, or trains, since there are two of them, winded their way east to west with one covering Canada’s midsection while the other found its way through the American Midwest before crossing back into Canada at North Portal and later in Estevan and Weyburn.
The program drew tremendous crowds once again and the entertainment aboard was appreciated by the thousands who showed up to cheer, meet Santa, take pictures and enjoy the musical talents of such artists as Kira Isabella and Doc Walker, who were aboard the U.S./Canada train and West Mack, Kelly Prescott and Jim and Devin Cuddy who carried the musical load on the Canadian centric journey.
The Estevan and area food bank received a major shot in the arm with the Estevan bank receiving a $2,500 boost from CP as well as several food item donations from thankful fans who visited the Holiday Train on Dec. 16 in either North Portal or Estevan.
This year’s edition of the trains raised more than $14 million in food bank donations at the more than 120 stops they each made before Christmas.
The food bank contributions amounted to over 300,000 pounds of food.
Since its inception in 1999, the CP Holiday Train has now raised more than $12 million and 3.9 million pounds of food for local food banks.
This year saw record crowds in many communities with an estimated overall attendance of 450,000 people over the 23 days.
“The Holiday Train is all about neighbours helping neighbours, and this year saw remarkable support for this important cause,” said E. Hunter Harrison, CP’s chief executive officer. “Each year, we are humbled by the good work local food banks do in helping those in need in their communities. We are proud that we can help them deliver on that mission.”
The visitors to the Holiday Train sites were encouraged to think about healthy options when donating food which included heart health education and awareness which is a tenet of CP’s community investment program, CP Has Heart, which focuses on improving the heart health of men, women and children in communities across North America.
“Every year, CP’s train of lights provides a platform to speak about the needs of North American food banks. This year they helped drive the message home not only about ongoing needs, but the ability for indivduals to raise levels of health in their community by reaching in their cupboards for healthy donations,” said Katharine Schmidt, executive director for Food Banks Canada.
“We are honoured to once again be part of a magical program that brings communities together to raise money for local food banks,” said Chris Thorsteinson of Doc Walker, who entertained Estevan audiences not only on the Holiday Train but was also featured in the Estevan Festival of Trees which raised money for the St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation a couple of weeks earlier. “You don’t realize how much towns use food banks and how important it is to support them around this time of year until you travel across the country learning about the need.”
This year’s Holiday Train photographer of the year was Neil Zeller who caught the attention of an international audience with his photo of the 14-car well-lit train appearing to float in the sky, as it crossed the Lethbridge High Level Bridge in the fog. Many comments suggested it resembled Santa’s sleigh.
CP announced the release of a behind-the-scene documentary, chronicling what is required to run the program each year. Watch for All aboard the CP Holiday Train online and follow their social media channels for details on when and where it will air.