CP Holiday Train benefits food banks

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CP Rail’s Holiday Train is making its first-ever stop in Okotoks this weekend, supporting the Okotoks Food Bank.

The Okotoks event will be one of two Foothills stops for the train on Dec. 10 with a free concert by Alan Doyle, of Great Big Sea, along Daggett Street in the downtown area, before continuing on to Blackie.

This is the 19th year the CP Holiday Train has crossed Canada to support food banks and raise awareness about hunger. This year the train is stopping in 171 communities in Canada and the U.S.

“In each one we are partnering with a local food bank to raise donations that stay right in the community. Everything that is raised in that community, stays in the community,” said CP Rail spokesperson Mallory McCredie. “Since 1999, we have raised 13 million dollars (CAD) and four-million pounds of food for food banks across North America.”

The train will roll into Okotoks at noon and in Blackie about an hour later at 1:05 p.m. It will also stop in Vulcan at 2:45 p.m. before ending the day in Lethbridge.

The event is free to attend, but people are encouraged to bring a cash donation or a non-perishable food item for their local food bank.

McCredie said all donations made during the stops in Okotoks and Blackie will remain in the communities.

“Everything donated and raised at the Okotoks will be donated directly to the Okotoks Food Bank, who will be on site collecting,” she said. “They will then distribute accordingly. Everything donated and raised at the Blackie show (which is a full show) will be given to the Blackie and District Food Bank.”

Though the Okotoks stop will be during the daylight hours, the Holiday Train will be resplendent with lights celebrating the Christmas season.

The highlight of the event will be a performance by Doyle.

“When the train rolls in, the stage door will drop and Alan Doyle and the Beautiful Band will play a concert of traditional and modern holidays songs for the crowd,” she said.

The train has passed through Okotoks on its way to annual stops in Blackie, but this is the first time it will be making a stop in town.

Mark Doherty, Okotoks community events co-ordinator, said the Town has asked to have the train stop in Okotoks for several years.

He is expecting it to be a busy day.

“There’s quite a buzz,” he said. “I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we would get 3,000 to 5,000 people.”

All events will be held on the Daggett Street between Northridge Drive and Veterans Way and the entertainment car will be located about midway along the street.

The Town has a whole day of events planned to coincide with the train’s stop in Okotoks.

Entertainment will kick off at 11 a.m. with performances from local singers before the train arrives at noon.

Doyle will take to the train’s entertainment stage at 12:08 p.m. to 12:25 p.m. before setting out to its next stop in Blackie at 12:30 p.m.

Festivities will continue with a performance from the band Haggis from 12:35 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. The Okotoks Kinsmen will host a charity BBQ and the Okotoks Food Bank will be collecting donations onsite throughout the event.

The fun will continue at the Okotoks Recreation Centre with the annual Skate with Santa from 2:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

“It just happened to fall in to the place that the train is the same day, so we thought we’d combine the whole thing,” Doherty said.

The skating party will include a Christmas edition of the Town’s Picnic at the Piano series with a performance by Natasha Sayer from 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

A detailed listing of the day’s events is available on the Town website at www.okotoks.ca

Daggett Street will be closed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Parking is available at the Okotoks Library, the Creamery site and throughout the downtown area.

Once the train has arrived, people will only be able to cross the tracks at the rail crossings at Northridge Drive and Veterans Way.

People are asked to use marked rail crossings and to stay off the tracks and CP Police will be on hand to ensure safety on the tracks and for the train.

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