By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
Hundreds of people ventured to the north end of Clinton on Thursday evening to experience the wonder of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train while also giving back to their community.
Before the brightly decorated train arrived, the droves of people who attended enjoyed a performance by the Jefferson Elementary School choir, hot apple cider from Rastrelli’s Restaurant and cookies from Sweetheart Bakery.
Shortly before 4:30 p.m. the train rolled into to the north end, stopping near the Sawmill Museum. Once stopped, Santa strolled out of one of the cars, waving to the hundreds of children eagerly awaiting his arrival.
As the jolly man greeted the crowd, a beaming box car opened into a stage where the Claytones and Stacey Brown performed.
The event drew people from Clinton, who had seen the train before and enjoyed what it had to offer, including Christy Shalack and her daughter Skylar Shalack, 3.
“I like the jingle bells song,” Skylar said.
People also ventured from surrounding counties to bask in holiday joy. Among them Jeff Beer and Kaden Beer, 5, of Sterling, Ill.
“It’s a pretty neat thing for Clinton,” Jeff said. “It’s great. I mean, I travelled 40 miles to see it.”
Attendees were also asked to bring food donations. While the Holiday Train provides free family friendly entertainment, it also travels the country and Canada to raise awareness in the fight against hunger and collect food and money for local food banks. Since its inception in 1999, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train has raised more than $6.4 million and over 2.6 million pounds of food in the U.S. and Canada.
“This is a fun event, it’s really great for kids and it’s good for the community,” Danelle McNeece, of Morrison, Ill., said.
This year, Canadian Pacific partnered with the Associate Benevolent Society and Chris Streets with the “Freezing for Food” program. They will also be matching every dollar that was donated locally up to $250,000 and sending it to Feeding America, which is helping victims of Hurricane Sandy.
In between performances, Canadian Pacific presented a check for $2,000 to the Associate Benevolent Society.
Officials estimate more than 10,000 pounds of food was donated in addition to a yet-to-be- determined amount of cash donations.
“We got way more than we were expecting,” Associate Benevolent Society Director Paula Mallory said. “It’s wonderful.”
After approximately 45 minutes of music, the train departed. As children and adults alike waved goodbye to Santa and the dazzling light displays mounted on each car, fireworks started erupting.
The fireworks display was put on by the Lyons Business and Professional Association. Attendees admired the beams of light bursting against the dark blue sky until the show ended.