Folk-rock, country performers will be in DL Thursday on the stage of the Holiday Train
Since Friday, Dec. 1, the Canadian Pacific Railway's brightly-lit Holiday Train has been riding the rails from Pennsylvania to Minnesota, spreading Christmas cheer with its lively music shows --and good will toward men with its gifts to local food shelves.
This Thursday, Dec. 14, the Holiday Train will be stopping in Detroit Lakes at the Soo Line's Holmes Street crossing, near the Community & Cultural Center. During its visit, the Becker County Food Pantry will be getting a very special gift.
Though he doesn't know the exact amount, Food Pantry Director Jack Berenz knows he will be receiving a check from CPR.
"They give a check at each 'station' they stop at, to promote local food shelves," Berenz said. "We will also be accepting donations (cash or food) during the show."
And what a show it promises to be. Once the 1,000-foot train -- brightly lit with holiday decorations -- arrives, musicians including Milwaukee folk-rocker Willy Porter, Nashville bluegrass/country singer-songwriter and former New Grass Revival guitarist Pat Flynn and Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Famer Tracey Brown will be performing live on the train's boxcar stage.
Thousands of people gather trackside at depots, railroad crossings and other unusual venues along CPR's route to enjoy the arrival of the brightly decorated trains lighting up the winter nights.
The musicians, who ride in private vintage cars at the end of the 12-car train, hop out and climb aboard a boxcar in the middle of the train that opens to reveal a stage where they perform live holiday concerts and invite crowds to sing along.
Crowds donate money and nonperishable food, and the railroad presents a check at each stop. Food banks say the cash donations are especially appreciated because every dollar can distribute $9 worth of food.
Berenz said the Food Pantry's board of directors tried to get the Holiday Train to stop in Detroit Lakes last year, but got the request in too late.
"They were all booked up, so we knew we wanted to get our application in early this year," he said. "We called them in January."
This time, the answer was yes. "We're pretty excited," Berenz said. "It's going to be something pretty different."
The timing of the Holiday Train show is also quite convenient, as it will dovetail into the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center's Community Carnival, which gets underway at 5:30 p.m. (the Holiday Train show runs from 4:30-5:30).
"It's just up the street," Berenz said.
The timing of the food/cash donation is also welcome, he added. Though the Food Pantry was recently restocked by Central Market's "Stuff-A-Truck" food drive, "This is a busy time of year for us," Berenz said. "And it just seems to keep getting busier and busier."
Though final figures on 2006 usage won't be available until early 2007, Berenz said, "We've had more people this year than last year."
For instance, in the three days just before Thanksgiving, the Food Pantry served 90 area families. While usage has leveled off to a more normal level -- 40 area families were served last week -- Berenz said, "It's an ongoing need."
Fortunately, the community has been very supportive, with area schools, churches, private individuals and businesses, Salvation Army and United Way all contributing at various times of the year.
Though the holidays are a busy time for the Food Pantry, Berenz said this is also the time of year when they see the second highest amount of donations come in -- behind only the March Food Share Month campaign.
The Holiday Train's DL visit will also provide a major boost, he added. The CPR program has raised $2.4 million (Canadian) and collected 1.2 million pounds of food since the first Holiday Train ran in 1999.
Other Dec. 14 stops on the train's route will include Alexandria and Thief River Falls. For a complete schedule, or other information about the Holiday Train, visit www.cpr.ca.