Continuing a tradition that has lasted more than a decade, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will make its annual stop in Mauston on Saturday, Dec. 5.
The train will stop in downtown Mauston at 4:15 p.m. at the Division Street railroad crossing by the Peace Presbyterian Church. The Holiday Train helps support food pantries across the U.S. and Canada and will be helping the Mauston Community Sharing Food Pantry for the 11th straight year.
Pantry director Kathy Green said cash and healthy food donations are welcome to help local families in need. Entertainment will be provided by award-winning Canadian Country artists Kira Isabella and Doc Walker. Children will also have the opportunity to meet Santa.
“It’s a wonderful show,” said Green. “The performers they have are just excellent.”
A free community soup supper will be provided by the Peace Presbyterian Church at 5 p.m. For the first time, the celebration will conclude with the annual Mauston Holiday Parade, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at Mauston High School and continues through Grayside, Division and State streets.
Those who donate canned goods or money receive a free hot beverage, compliments of the Mauston Chamber of Commerce.
Green worked with the city to bring the Holiday Train to Mauston 11 years ago. What began as an audition to get the train to stop turned into an annual celebration that kicks off the holiday season in Juneau County.
“(Canadian Pacific) told us if we can get 50 people there, we will stop for the kids and Santa can come out and we’ll get back on the train, and if you can get that many people, it shows enthusiasm,” Green said. “We ended up having at least a thousand people there. … I went on the radio to promote it and the newspaper ran an ad. One mom came out and she’s carrying one kid and pulling another and she told me ‘I heard you on the radio and if Kathy says to be there, you have to be there.’ It was like my George Bailey moment, it was just cute.”
So many showed up to greet the Holiday Train, that it was delayed to its next stop, Tomah, by a half hour. Santa was engulfed by kids and had trouble getting back on the train.
Each year, donations to the local food bank have grown with help from the train’s arrival.
“They started out by making a donation of $500; they’re now up to $4,000 and we usually get about 1,000 pounds of food from the community that night and the Methodist Church goes through the crowd with cans for donations,” Green said. “It’s our huge end-of-the year push and we’re excited that it correlates with the Mauston Holiday Parade this year, too.”
The train will also go through Portage and Wisconsin Dells before stopping in Mauston, just as the sun goes down. The train will be decked out in lights and holiday decorations.
“We have people from all over that come to see it from large distances. Portage is OK, but it’s still light out, same with the Dells. At 4:30, we’re getting dark so it’s really the first time to see the train in all its dark glory,” Green said.
The train will roll through Mauston depending on whatever weather arrives on Dec. 5. The pantry will also be accepting matching donations through its “Big Dig” funding project for renovations to its building in Mauston.
“That’s the difference this year, so if somebody gives us $10 that night, it turns into $15,” Green said. “So it’s nice to know that there are matching funds through your donations.”
For more information on the Holiday Train, including its schedule, go to www.cpr.ca. For information on donating to the Mauston Community Sharing Food Pantry, contact Green at 608-547-5459.