Once again, the Racine-area community has stepped up for our neighbors in need.
A crowd of about 1,200 turned out in damp, chilly weather Saturday to cheer the CP Rail Holiday Train and make big donations to the Racine County Food Bank. Total contributions come to 2,164 pounds of food (the record of 2,939 in 2005) and we hit a record of cash donations of $2,855.19.
Dan Tailvalkoski, executive director of the Racine County Food Bank, sent an email to Patch Sunday morning with the totals. The money is combination of cash collected at the train and larger contributions from the railroad, Chicago law firm Freeborn & Peters LLP, and Racine Emergency Physicians, S.C.
Sturtevant Police Chief Sean Marschke said he had an unofficial count of 1,200.
Tailvalkoski said the turnout was higher than any year in the past.
"I thought the number of people we had two years ago was huge, but there are definitely more here now than ever before," he said.
The CP Rail Holiday Train returned to Sturtevant Saturday after a two-year absence, and it was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of over 1,000. The train has been traveling through the United States and Canada since 1999 to help support local food banks in the communities where the train stops.
Village President Steve Jansen was very pleased with the turnout and credited Mother Nature for not really raining on the event. Temperatures hovered around 35 and a mix of snow and rain fell intermittently.
"It's pretty nice out tonight considering we're into December now," he said. "I think people bundled up well and they're ready for a good time."
The train didn't use Sturtevant as a stop in 2011 after nearly 10 years of consistently visiting the village. Folks on the platform were excited about watching the brightly-lit, full-size locomotive pull up right in front of them.
The Palmer family from Racine - dad Matt, daughter Allison, and son Corbin - thought it was a great way to kick off Christmas. Members of Pack 567 from Nash Elementary in Kenosha used the Holiday Train's stop as the basis for their community service project.
"We brought food so people don't go hungry," said Patrick Sanderson, 6.
In front of the Food Bank's truck where people lined up to drop off their donations, volunteers from Nordco in Oak Creek made sure visitors got warmed by cups of hot chocolate and cookies.
Nordco manufactures railway repair equipment, and CP Rail is a customer. Participating in the Holiday Train was a way to offer support since many Nordco employees live in the Racine area.
"We can support our customer and our community at the same time," said Bob Coakley, director of sales and marketing. "It really just makes sense."
And the train was right on time, too, chugging into the Sturtevant Amtrak depot at 5:55 p.m., its cars wrapped in hundreds of brightly colored lights. The crowd cheered loudly as it approached and then waited in hushed expectation for a car to open to reveal the live band.
The Claytones, a Canadian trio, played and sang Christmas classics as well as an original holiday song. A representative from CP Rail appeared on stage and presented a $1,000 check to Tailvalkoski.
But then, the man himself appreared - Santa! - high-fiving children and shaking hands like a seasoned rock star. He clapped along with the beat and worked the crowd for a few more moments before it was time for the show to wrap and the train to pull away for travel to the next stop.