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Cottage Grove Holiday Train donations pass $1 million mark

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The 15th annual Canadian Pacific Holiday Train stop in Cottage Grove raised enough money to push its cumulative donations past the $1 million dollar mark.

The train, its boxcars illuminated like a string of Christmas department store windows, stopped Dec. 9 along West Point Douglas Road just south of the 80th Street Bridge, near the Youth Service Bureau building. 

From the elevated railway stage, event co-chair Mary Slusser raised an oversize check as the crowd cheered.  Her efforts first brought the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train to Cottage Grove in 2003. This was her last year as chair of the event, which raises money for the Friends in Need Food Shelf. 

"I think this is one of the biggest crowds ever," Slusser said. "It's cold but not too cold. Everything fell into place." 

Canadian Pacific emcee Andy Cummings presented her with a $10,000 check, bringing total donations to nearly $92,000 she said. 

The new Festival of Trees fundraiser, organized by the Cottage Grove Arts Commission, was such a hit they may bring it back next year, she said. Families, companies or organizations paid $250 apiece to decorate one of 12 trees. They included the Elling family from Cottage Grove. Matt Elling brought children Paige, 4, Leo 6, and Jackson, 9, to the event.

"The train," Paige said when asked about her favorite part of the evening. "Mine was the laser show," her father said. 

Canadian guitar-slingers Terri Clark, Kelly Prescott and Dallas Smith rocked their way through a spirited holiday-themed set, before a crowd estimated at 5,000. The concert's finale, a propulsive version of "Run Rudolph Run," sparked a Yule-tidal wave of dancing among the revelers, many wearing strands of lights or waving glow sticks.

Holiday Train co-chair Colleen Stelmach is also stepping down.

Randy Bachman, a six-year Holiday Train committee veteran, will take over as one of the co-chairs. They are still looking for a second co-chair. Bachman is branch manager and personal banking officer at Merchants Bank in Cottage Grove.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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