While Winona should not expect the Polar Express to pull up to its Amtrak station Monday, keep an eye open for the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train.
An annual mainstay in the Winona holiday seasons, the 1,000-foot train, which features 14 brightly-decorated rail cars adorned with holiday designs, travels to more than 170 stops throughout the United States and Canada in an effort to raise money and make donations to various food banks.
Winona donations will be taken in by Winona Volunteer Services.
Accepted donations are grain products, vegetables and fruit, meat and alternatives and reduced-sodium canned or jarred goods, with non-perishables preferred.
“We know that hunger is an issue that can, and does, impact our neighbors,” CP states on its website. “Over the years the program has gained a tremendous following, and we are proud to continue this tradition for our family and yours.”
According to the site, since the train’s maiden voyage in 1999, the company has raised more than $15.8 million and collected 4.5 million pounds of food.
Sandra Burke, executive director of Winona Volunteer Services, touched on the significance of the train and why she gives Canadian Pacific a break whenever she is stopped by one of their trains.
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“Anytime you’re stopped by a Canadian Pacific train here in Winona, think about what’s going to happen on Monday,” Burke said. “They are working in the community to help those in need, so that’s why I always give them a break when I’m stopped by their trains … It makes a difference to know that they are giving back.”
The Holiday Train will host a myriad of artists performing out of one of its rail cars, with soul artist Tanika Charles and country artists Meghan Patrick and Kelly Prescott expected to appear during the stop in Winona.
“The CP Holiday Train program is our way to help in the fight against hunger by growing awareness of this issue and providing a fun and engaging way for the public to show their support,” CP President and Chief Executive Officer Keith Creel said.
Burke said she would like to see people not only donate because of the train, but also volunteer, as well.
“Consider donating your time,” Burke said. “For your New Year’s resolution, say, ‘Hey, I’ve got three hours to spare once a week. Maybe I should I give it up to Volunteer Services and help them out.”
The train will stop at 65 E. Mark St. in Winona at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 9., with Charles, Patrick and Prescott set to perform approximately 15 minutes after its arrival.
The train is also scheduled to stop in La Crosse at 8:45 p.m. Dec. 4 at 601 Saint Andrew St. Donations from that stop will go to the Hunger Task Force of La Crosse.