Holiday Train in Tomah 2017

Kelly Prescott performed on the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train when it stopped in Tomah on Dec. 4.  2017. The train will again stop in Tomah on Dec. 8 at 5:30 p.m. Launched in 1999, the colorful locomotive's yearly trek across the United States and Canada raises money and collects food for food banks in the communities it visits.

Holiday lights and music will be featured at the 20th annual Canadian Pacific Holiday Train when it makes its stop in Tomah Saturday, Dec. 8 at 5:30 p.m.

The Holiday Train program acts as a kickoff to the holiday season and to assist area food pantries.

Every year the Holiday Train travels along the Canadian Pacific Railway’s routes in Canada and the United States, stopping in cities along the way. Since the Holiday Train program launched in 1999, it has raised more than $13 million and four million pounds of food for the communities where the train stops.

In a statement on the Holiday Train from the Canandian Pacific website, president and CEO of Canadian Pacific Keith Creel said it’s the people who turn out for the train that make it a successful program.

“It is a privilege for CP to be able to run a program like this and connect with so many communities across our network,” he said. “I want to personally thank each individual who has made a donation over the past 20 years – your collective efforts have made the Holiday Train a huge success for two decades.”

Attendance to the Holiday Train and its music show is free, but audience members are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to donate. Tomah’s Neighbor for Neighbor Food Pantry will have a truck parked on either side of the railroad tracks for people to drop off items.

Doug Staller, executive director of Neighbor for Neighbor, said the food donations from the community and the monetary donation from Canadian Pacific are a huge help to the organization.

“It’s a great help, especially at the end of the year,” he said. “It helps us have a good end to 2018 and a good start to 2019.”

Two musical groups will be performing at this year’s show: Willy Porter and The Trews.

Willy Porter is an American rock musician and singer-songwriter who has been active since 1990. He is from Mequon and resides in nearby Milwaukee with his wife and two children.

The Trews is a Canadian hard rock band consisting of vocalist Colin MacDonald, guitarist John-Angus MacDonald, bassist Jack Syperek and drummer Chris Gormley. The group is based in Hamilton, Ontario, and has been performing since 1997.

Staller said the Holiday Train is a great event because of what it does for local food pantries and how it brings communities together for a night.

“To see someone else care so much about what we as food pantries do to bring a whole train and entertainers to town and the great number of people that turn out, it’s great,” he said. “Last year was the first year I’ve done it and I have been here for one, and I’m amazed by the crowd that shows up − lots of people. It helps us feel better about what we’re doing here.”

Tomah mayor Mike Murray said he enjoys the camaraderie of the Holiday Train.

“What I find interesting is already people are inquiring about when it will be here and what time … a lot of people that look forward to it,” he said. “It’s (held at) the perfect time, when just getting dark out, but early enough for kids to be able to enjoy it, and it’s really fun. I like just the fantastic camaraderie and the joy and happiness it brings to the community.”

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Meghan Flynn can be reached at meghan.flynn@lee.net.

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