By Kim Hutchison
An estimated 2000 people gathered in front of the beautifully decorated Holiday Train parked in Ponoka for roughly 45 minutes of outstanding entertainment ultimately benefiting the Ponoka Food Bank.
While the crowd enjoyed the heat from a bonfire lit and monitored by the Ponoka Fire Department, the opportunity to get a photo taken with RCMP officers while seated on an RCMP horse and delicious hot chocolate and other services and activities made possible by the Kinsmen and the Lions, the side of the train came down and smoke billowed out of the boxcar to reveal a singing Santa who got the crowd in the holiday spirit. When Santa finished his song, deputy mayor Doug Gill gave an official welcome and introduction and extended a sincere thanks for everyone’s valued participation. Sybill Evans was then presented with a cheque for the Ponoka Food Bank from Canadian Pacific Railway valued at $1000 before it was time for county music artist and Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member Tracy Brown to hit the stage.
Country Music Association Male Artist of the year Johnny Reid followed and, after thanking the band and Ponoka, it was time for the train to take off to its next scheduled stop which was Hobemma. Even though most people wanted the train to stay longer, everyone really seemed to truly enjoy what they saw.
“The entertainment was very good,” said Pat Spelrem who was there with her neighbour. “I love coming to special Christmas shows and events – especially ones like this one,” she said.
People in attendance were there for a multitude of reasons. Some were there because they were huge fans of the performers and were ecstatic they would be singing in Ponoka, while others simply wanted to take their children and grandchildren out for an hour of fun. No matter what brought people out and about, the turnout and community support was great.
Chamber manager and Lion Barry Neath thought this was one of the best Holiday Train events to date.
“Everything came together really, really well,” he said. “The Chamber is very happy with the results.”
At the conclusion of the event, the Lions packed the food donations onto their bus and took it to the Ponoka Food Bank to be weighed.
1724 pounds of food was donated along with $991.56 in cash plus the $1000 from Canadian Pacific Railway previously mentioned making the cash donation total $1991.56.
This year, the train started in Montreal, Que. on Nov. 26 and will conclude its two-week, six-province journey in Port Mooney, B.C. on Dec. 19.
To date the Holiday Train has raised 3 million dollars and 1.6 million pounds of food.
The results for this year’s tour will be available at a later date. For more information visit www8.cpr.ca