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Holiday Train, Community Center event bring out crowds; food pantry gets early Christmas

Despite some wet, heavy snow that soaked through the winter wear of those gathered to watch the show, the turnout for Thursday night's Detroit Lakes visit by the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train was outstanding, according to organizers.

Hundreds of local residents lined up along the Soo Line's Holmes Street crossing to watch the arrival of the 1,000-foot train, resplendent with holiday lights that spelled out the words "Canadian Pacific Holiday Train" in glowing red and green letters.

It was the train's first visit to DL, as noted several times by the performers, who took snapshots of the crowd and commented several times on the size of the crowd.

Early in the 45-minute stage show, emcee Ed Greenberg presented a $1,000 check to Jack Berenz, director of the Becker County Food Pantry.

Since the Holiday Train first rolled its way across the U.S. and Canada eight years ago, the organization has raised more than $2.4 million and 1.3 million pounds of food on behalf of food banks in both countries.

And, as Greenberg pointed out during the presentation, whatever cash and food donations raised at each of the 40 stops on the tour stays in that community, to benefit the local food bank.

Berenz said Friday morning that while he doesn't yet have an official tally on the total amount raised, "I know we got over $1,000 more" in cash donations at the show. In addition, 36 boxes of food were collected Thursday.

"That was a very, very nice collection," Berenz said. I'm very pleased with the program."

Though he hopes to persuade Canadian Pacific officials to put Detroit Lakes on the list of stops for the 2007 Holiday Train, Berenz said those decisions won't be made until sometime after the new year.

"I talked to them about coming back they said sometimes they go to the same towns and sometimes they go to different towns each year," Berenz said. "We would certainly like to see them come back but it's up to them. We're on one of the lines where they will continue to come through (Detroit Lakes), whether they stop here or not.

And in addition to helping out a worthy cause, those who were willing to brave the snow and cold were treated to a festive holiday show that included some very good musicians such as Milwaukee folk-rocker Willy Porter, Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Famer Tracey Brown.

"We were very, very pleased with the show," Berenz said. "The snow just added to the festivities, because it was kind of like Christmas -- and the singers were good. They did a very nice job."

Porter even provided a touch of humor during the show, by wearing a Santa hat in the colors of the Green Bay Packers (aka green and gold). "I know this hat is the wrong color -- but this looks like a peaceful crowd," he joked.

At one point, the audience was even invited to sing along with the musicians, creating an impromptu choir for a lovely rendition of the holiday carol, "Silent Night."

"We had a very good crowd, and I think they really enjoyed the music," Berenz said. "It was very much worth our while (to bring the train to Detroit Lakes. I couldn't be happier. All in all, it was a very, very pleasant evening, and a lot of fun."

Then, about 40 minutes after the train rolled into the station, the box car stage was closed, and the train made its colorful way down the tracks toward Thief River Falls for the last show of the day.

See for more information about the Holiday Train, as well as a full schedule of the remaining stops on its 2006 tour.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454