Train lights the way to fight hunger
Santa Claus is crossing the prairie this week on a musical train of lights destined to raise money for the hungry. The annual Canadian Pacific Railway holiday train arrives in North Dakota on Thursday with all the bells and whistles befitting its...
Santa Claus is crossing the prairie this week on a musical train of lights destined to raise money for the hungry.
The annual Canadian Pacific Railway holiday train arrives in North Dakota on Thursday with all the bells and whistles befitting its famous passenger.
Decorated with hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights, the 13-car freight train wraps up its Midwest journey with stops in Hankinson, Enderlin, Carrington, Harvey and Minot.
At each stop, Santa and musical entertainers put on a brief show to gather the community together to donate money and food items to the local food pantry.
This year's entertainers include country singer Tracey Brown, Celtic-pop artists the Ennis Sisters and Minnesota folk singer John Gorka.
But the glamour of the train tugging along the open prairie is a show in itself.
"You want to be there to see the train arrive," said Laura Baenen, a spokeswoman for Canadian Pacific Railway. "That's half the fun - to see this train all lit up come out of the dark in the winter night."
The holiday train program began in Canada in 1999 and expanded into the United States with a second train two years later.
Canadian Pacific Railway started the tradition to give back to the communities the train goes through, Baenen said.
Because grain is the one of the biggest commodities the railroad ships, it seemed fitting to help food pantries, she added.
In the past six years, the two holiday trains combined have raised about $1.5 million and 400 tons of food, Baenen said.
At each stop, Canadian Pacific Railway also donates a check to the local food pantry. Donation amounts vary in each community but will be a minimum of $1,000 this year, Baenen said.
The U.S. holiday train began in Pennsylvania on Nov. 30 and will have stopped in about 40 cities by Saturday.
Hankinson turns the train's arrival into a community event and offers sleigh rides, visits with Santa and a chili feed, said event co-organizer DiAnn Milbrandt.
Activities begin at 4 p.m. Thursday with all contributions going to the Richland-Wilkin Emergency Food Pantry. The holiday train will be in Hankinson from 6:45-7:35 p.m.
"If you'd see this train, you'd know why it was so great. It's decorated to the hilt," she said. "It's just an attraction that will get people more aware of it (hunger). There's a lot of needy people out there."
The arrival of the train in Carrington draws a huge crowd, said Laurie Dietz, executive director of the local Chamber of Commerce. The train will be in Carrington from 4:35-5:15 p.m. Friday.
"We really appreciate the (holiday train) coming and stopping by our community to help out our food pantry," she said.
Enderlin has raised about $14,000 and 2,000 pounds of food as a result of the holiday train's past stops, said Tamra Kriedeman, the city's community affairs advocate.
Local volunteers serve hot chocolate and Christmas carolers have sung before the train's arrival in the past. The train will be in Enderlin from 9:25-10:15 p.m. Thursday.
The evening is family oriented and the railway pulls out all the stops to entertain the crowd along its route, Kriedeman said.
"To see this thing come across the prairie ... it is absolutely beautiful," she said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Teri Finneman at (701) 241-5560