The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will once again roll down the rails from Canada to Bellevue.
The unique, Christmas-themed engine and accompanying rail cars are tentatively scheduled for a 6:45 p.m. whistle-stop on Tuesday, Dec. 4, on the tracks near Horizon Hall.
The lights, music and winter cheer of the event will help to benefit the Bellevue Bread Basket to feed those in need this coming holiday season. Food and cash collections will be taken onsite.
Everyone in Jackson County is encouraged to come witness the magic of helping others.
City officials as well as the Bellevue fire and police department have already begun discussing logistics for the massive crowds expected to attend from the area. Two years ago, the performance location was changed to the opposite side from the event in 2014, when about 5,000 people showed up in the Horizon Hall parking lot; traffic was stalled and there was minimal parking. As a result, the stage car, featuring the live bands and the check donation to the Bellevue Bread Basket was changed to the Jefferson Avenue side of the tracks.
Shuttles were also available to transport people, running every 15 minutes, picking up folks from parking lots at Bellevue High School and Rockwell Collins on the west side of town.
It is not known if the same scenario will be repeated this year.
Live musical entertainment from one of the train’s lighted boxcars will feature Canadian music stars The Trews and Willy Porter from 7 to 7:30 p.m.
Times are approximate for the train and the musical performance, so spectators are encouraged to arrive early.
The decorated, lighted train, which rolls through Bellevue every two years, raises money and goods for food pantries and also raises awareness of hunger throughout the United States and Canada. The Holiday Train stopped in Bellevue every two years since 2008, resulting in thousands of dollars in donations and truckloads of needed food.
The 2016 stop at Horizon Hall raised more than $4,000 for the Bellevue Bread Basket and brought upwards of 5,000 to town.
At their 2010 and 2012 visits, Canadian Pacific officials presented $1,000 checks to the Bellevue Bread Basket, which distributes food from 2 to 4 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month at the Bellevue Community Center.
Organizers also pass the hat for cash donations and gathered donations of foods and other non-perishable goods from spectators.
The train’s prime-time stop in Bellevue is sandwiched between stops near the Sawmill Museum in Clinton at 4:30 p.m. and the Hawthorne Street railroad crossing in Dubuque.
The Canadian and U.S. holiday train will make about 150 stops this year. Since it’s 1999 inception, the train has raised more than $9.5 million and collected more than 3.3 million pounds of food for pantries in both countries. In some places the Holiday Train program can raise the majority of money a food bank requires for the year.
For those who have never witnessed the CP Holiday Train, a typical stop goes something like this: The train arrives and pulls to a safe stop in front of the crowd. The stage door lowers and the band opens with its first song. After that, a brief ceremony takes place involving local food bank officials and other dignitaries. Then the band resumes its show.
After about a half hour that usually includes a mix of traditional and modern holiday-themed songs, the band plays its farewell song, the boxcar door closes, and the train slips off into the night on its way to the next stop.