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Special Holiday Train concert to be 'largest event' in Cottage Grove history

The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, pictured during a 2012 stop, will bring a large celebration to Cottage Grove Saturday, Dec. 14, as the railroad company celebrates the 15th anniversary of the event that raised money for food shelves, including Friends in Need in St. Paul Park. (Bulletin file photo)

Mark Dec. 14 on your calendar.

Canadian Pacific has picked Cottage Grove as a host city for what’s being described as a major concert event celebrating the 15th anniversary of the railway company’s annual Holiday Train.

Cottage Grove is being recognized for its support of the festive holiday program that raises money for food shelves across the country. The local stop has grown to be among the largest stops on the Holiday Train’s U.S. route.

Canadian Pacific announced that it will stage a celebration Saturday evening, Dec. 14, in Cottage Grove, that is estimated to draw far more than any previous local Holiday Train visit. The past couple of annual stops in Cottage Grove have drawn between 5,000 to 10,000 people.

Ed Greenberg of Canadian Pacific said this year’s free event will be “just like the traditional Holiday Train, except that it will be on a much larger scale.”

Mayor Myron Bailey, who is involved in city planning for the event, said it could draw spectators from around the upper Midwest and might top 20,000 people.

“This will be the largest event we’ve ever had in Cottage Grove,” Bailey said.

Neither Greenberg nor Bailey would provide details about the concert and much of the event, ahead of a larger announcement in early November. However, Bailey did say local organizers are planning family craft and other activities in addition to the large concert and the presence of the Holiday Train, a locomotive and string of freight cars decorated with thousands of Christmas lights and decorations.

In past years the Holiday Train has stopped along West Point Douglas Road south of Grange Boulevard, but this year’s event is moving to Canadian Pacific’s rail yard near 95th Street and Ideal Avenue.

“We’re going to be turning that site into a concert area for a much larger show,” Greenberg said. The availability of a safe, large outdoor space near the rail line was a key reason Canadian Pacific selected Cottage Grove.

Bailey said the city is planning to make available 5,000 to 6,000 parking spots at locations around Cottage Grove. People would then ride on buses to the event’s front gate.  

Canadian Pacific started the Holiday Train in 1999 as a fundraiser for food banks in Canada and the U.S. The company dispatches two decorated freight trains to make more than 100 stops on the cross-continent trip each November and December.

This will be Cottage Grove’s 11th year as a stop on the Holiday Train’s U.S. tour. The local stop, along with fundraising events leading up to it, have raised more than $500,000 dollars for the Friends in Need Food Shelf in St. Paul Park. The event, which is organized by the volunteer Holiday Train Committee, raised about $115,000 last year alone. In 2011, it raked in over $100,000 for the first time.

Canadian Pacific reports that since 1999 the Holiday Train has raised over $7.4 million and more than 3 million pounds of food for food shelves.

As Canadian Pacific and Cottage Grove plan the outdoor event in mid-December, there is one variable out of their control.

“The weather will play a major factor in this,” Bailey admitted.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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