The CP Holiday Train is on track to arrive in Savona and Ashcroft on Dec. 16, and if its recent stops are any indication there will be record turnouts at both locations.
The train — one of two operated by CP Rail — has been heading west since Nov. 23, and drew more than 10,000 people at a recent stop in Edmonton. It’s the first live cross-continent tour in three years, following virtual concerts during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021. It will be in Savona at 7 p.m., where hot dogs, hot chocolate, and goodies will be available (by donation) at the fire hall starting at 6 p.m., and arrives in Ashcroft at 8:35 p.m.
The train will overnight in Ashcroft, and at 11:15 a.m. on Dec. 17 will make a stop in Lytton.
On its visit to Ashcroft in 2019 a crowd of more than 1,200 turned out to watch the show, and more are expected this year to enjoy live music from Mackenzie Porter and Virginia to Vegas. Trish Schachtel, executive director of the South Cariboo Elizabeth Fry Society, which operates the Ashcroft food bank, says there will be lots more to enjoy in Ashcroft.
“The Holiday Train will be a large party. Members of United Steelworkers Local 1-417 from Koppers will be there serving up hot dogs by donation, Interior Savings will have free hot chocolate, and the E. Fry Society will be there with free cookies,” she says.
The food bank will also be there with a truck and trailer to accept non-perishable food items (please check the “best before” date first) and cash donations. Schachtel notes that while non-perishable food items are always welcome, food banks can make cash donations go a long way by buying in bulk.
“We can bulk purchase with other food banks,” she explains. “For example, the Kamloops food bank will ask if we want to buy in with them and get really good discounts.
“And there is a really great organization called Union Protein, where we can bulk order things like peanut butter, salmon, and tuna and buy by the pallet.”
She adds that the food bank is also able to use cash donations to bulk purchase perishable items such as milk or fresh produce.
Every year, CP makes a cash donation to the Ashcroft food bank, and Schachtel says that the donations continued in 2020 and 2021, even though the Holiday Train wasn’t running.
“The donation they give us is hugely impactful, especially at Christmas,” she notes. “People think to give at Christmas, but the donation from CP helps us through the lean times in late winter/early spring.”
That’s increasingly important, given that the Ashcroft food bank — which serves Spences Bridge, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, local First Nations, and the surrounding area — has seen a huge increase in the number of people using it.
“We’ve registered an additional 150 households in a year, who have been added to our clientele,” says Schachtel. “Our food bank has continued to see increased demand since the pandemic, especially from seniors and families.
“Even though we couldn’t have the Holiday Train for two years, CP has continued to support our communities. They’re passionate about food security, and it’s great when you have a huge organization take on food banks and food security, because the awareness they create is spectacular.”
This year marks the 24th year for the Holiday Train, which launched in 1999 and raises funds for food banks across Canada and the northern United States. Since its inception in 1999 it has raised more than $21 million and collected more than five million pounds of food for food banks.