The CP Holiday train last rolled through Wisconsin over Dec. 2-4 in 2019. (Image Courtesy Canadian pacific)

RACINE COUNTY ⏤ The Canadian Pacific Railway has canceled the 2020 appearance of its crowd-pleasing Holiday Train.

The company cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the cause for the cancellation. 

The railroad company promises to continue its cash donations to local food banks ⏤ including the Racine County Food Bank. The company is also planning a virtual benefit concert.

Affects United States and Canada

The cancellation, announced in a news release last week, affects dozens of communities in the United States and Canada. 

The 1,000-foot-long brightly decorated train, featuring a live mini-concert and an appearance by Santa Claus, stops in communities along the CP system. Its annual run takes place during late November and early December. 

The train collects food and cash donations for local food banks.  

“It is our honor to continue to donate to communities across our network this year, even if the train itself will not run. The spirit of the Holiday Train program and the Christmas spirit will carry on this year through our virtual concert,” CP President and Chief Executive Officer Keith Creel said in a news release. “We will have the Holiday Train rolling again spreading Christmas cheer as soon as it’s safe to do so.”  

Train launched in 1999

CP launched the Holiday Train in 1999. Every year since it has traveled across Canada and the northern U.S. raising money, collecting food and drawing attention to the important work of local food banks. 

In its first 21 years, the train has raised $17.8 million and collected 4.8 million pounds of food for local food banks in communities along CP’s network, according to a CP news release.

The Holiday Train has made an annual stop at the Sturtevant Amtrak Depot, 9900 E. Exploration Court, since 2003 on behalf of the Racine County Food Bank. Last year, a second stop was added at The Depot Tavern, 11402 Hwy. G, in Caledonia.

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More than $10,000 in donations last December

The high-profile event raised $10,080 in cash donations and 1,035 pounds of donated food at the train’s two stops last December, said Dan Taivalkoski, Racine County Food Bank executive director. Canadian Pacific donated $3,000 of that total.

In prior years, the Holiday Train’s stops produced as much as 2,800 pounds in donated food and about $4,500 to $5,800 in donations. 

The public awareness the train gives to food banks has been just as important as the donations, Taivalkoski said.

Alternatives considered

“It’s just so hard to do in-person events right now,” said Taivalkoski, whose nonprofit organization annually distributes about one million pounds of food to 14 food pantries in the county. The food pantries are typically operated by faith-based organizations. 

Excluding donated food, the Racine County Food Bank has an annual cash budget of approximately $400,000.

The Racine County Food Bank’s fundraisers usually include fall dinners. The dinners feature meats donated from livestock auction winners at the Racine County Fair. Donations also come from “Thoughts for Food,” an annual live-music benefit. The “Thoughts” benefit is held at more than a dozen Racine nightspots in early March.

Taivalkoski said that plans are in the works for staging the March 2021 “Thoughts for Food” edition. That event would be in a “virtual/telethon format” and may include pre-recorded performances by local bands.

Plans could also include a live performance that viewers can visit online and make donations to the food bank.

“We realize that doing something virtual just won’t be the same as experiencing it live, but we think people will understand and still be very supportive.”

Dan Taivalkoski, Racine County Food Bank executive director

Donations, benefit concert

The Racine County Food Bank always welcomes monetary contributions. Visit the food bank’s site at https://www.racinecountyfoodbank.org/index.html to do so.

Canadian Pacific, meanwhile, plans to produce a benefit concert, with details to be announced when they’re available. 

CP intends to resume operating the annual train tour in 2021. 

To learn more, visit https://www.cpr.ca/en/community/holiday-train.

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