It's always a treat when the CP Holiday Train stops in Cochrane.

The push is on to make it an extra special celebration this year in support of the Activettes food bank, newcomers, and the entire community.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in advance of the arrival of the brightly-decorated train, several organizations have joined forces with Santa to make it a truly magical hour of our Christmas spirit.

"This could be one of the biggest food drives that this town has ever experienced because Santa said he wants to be part of it, and so he's going to be promoting it," says Dan Kroffat, one of the organizers and Santa's liaison.

Those coming to enjoy the entertainment provided by the Holiday train are being asked to donate nonperishable goods or a little cash to help the Cochrane Activettes food bank meet a high demand that only continues to grow. 

Not lost is the opportunity a provide a warm welcome to our many new residents, something high on Santa's nice list. 

"If you lived in another city or another province, or if you're from another country and you want to have a Santa experience, come join us.," says Kroffat.

Special treats will be handed out to all the children by Jolly Ol' St. Nick himself and his assistants, that include head elf, Mayor Jeff Genung.

Members of the Cochrane Chamber of Commerce, Cochrane Toyota, Garmin, and Bike Cochrane have united to support the event.

Garmin, Cochrane Toyota, and Bike Cochrane will be encouraging the participation of their staff, customers, and club members to contribute to the food bank and will help where needed.

With 409 members, the Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce has a strong network of businesses that enjoy supporting community causes.

"We're excited to be down there when the train comes and all that's being put together for this and allow the chamber membership to support it any way they can," says Kelly Carson, chamber executive director. "We want to be there to support that and have our membership support it, so we're glad to be involved, and hopefully we get perfect weather for it and we look forward to the kick-off to the Christmas season with this."

Just last year, Cochrane Toyota purchase 350 sleighs to give away for Christmas and will be playing a role in the Holiday Train campaign this year by providing trucks to accept and deliver the donations collected. 

Kelly Baum, in charge of business development for Cochrane Toyota, says when they were approached, it was a no-brainer to lend a hand.

"We have an opportunity to get some vehicles and help out and see where we can help facilitate, give some hands to the process and make this a little easier. It's pretty easy to join a team like this."

Cochrane Activettes president Marcia Gilbertson says this is one of their many events during the biggest giving season. 

"We live in an incredibly generous community. They've kept us going all these years, and we need to keep up the momentum. We always need to see donations coming into the food bank, both food, and monetary donations."

Use of the food bank increased 100 per cent over the summer and continues to soar.

Cochrane is getting its first visit from the CP Holiday Train since 2018. It arrives in the Historic Downtown around 2:45 p.m. and the half-hour show begins at about 3 p.m. Best viewing will be between the former Rexall location and the Provincial Building on 1st St. W.

A second show is planned for Morley, starting at 4:25 p.m.

Featured performers are MacKenzie Porter and Virginia to Vegas.

Since the Holiday Train program launched in 1999, it has raised more than $21 million and collected 5 million pounds of food for community food banks across North America. That includes donations to the Activettes food bank.

The Holiday Train tour begins on Nov. 23 with its first-ever Maine show. Canadian shows kick off the next day in Quebec.