It's that time of year when Santa Claus can be seen traveling through the North Country - on the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train.
The Holiday Train will be making its way through the region next week, making stops from Rouses Point to Scranton, Pa., collecting food and money for local food shelves and offering some entertainment at the same time.
Michael LoVecchio, a representative for Canadian Pacific, said the Holiday Train program has helped raise more than $4 million and collect 2 million pounds of food since it began in 1999.
"When we started the Holiday Train program 11 years ago, the thought was we wanted a way for company employees to make a difference in the communities where they live," explained LoVecchio.
The enthusiasm employees had for the idea was overwhelming, he added, with reaction in the communities equally as amazing.
"It's very rewarding for CP employees to be able to do this, to be able to bring the Holiday Train to their communities," said LoVecchio, "because, at the end of the day, these people are their neighbors. It's nice to be able to do something for them."
Each year, the Holiday Train stops and opens its boxcar stage for performances by various well-known recording artists. This year, Shaun Verreault, best known as the lead vocalist and guitarist for the Canadian band Wide Mouth Mason, will return for a repeat performance. Verreault will be joined by contemporary American folk musician Willy Porter; Canadian singer and songwriter Adam Puddington; and Prescott, a brother and sister duo featuring third-generation Canadian musicians Kaylen and Kelly Prescott.
During each stop, the community is encouraged to bring donations for their local food shelf. Canadian Pacific then presents the donations and a check to the nonprofit organizations.
"Demand for food pantry services is way up, so we're asking Holiday Train fans, as they do every year, to come down and to please be generous in their donations to their local food shelves," said LoVecchio.
The stop in Rouses Point will benefit the food shelf at St. Patrick's Church on Lake Street. The only other stop in Clinton County - the Amtrak station in Plattsburgh - will benefit the Joint Council for Economic Opportunities of Clinton and Franklin Counties, which operates outreach centers throughout the North Country.
The Holiday Train's first stop will be at the Amtrak station on Pratt Street in Rouses Point on the night of Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26. The train is scheduled to stop at approximately 11 p.m. The train will continue on to stops in Pennsylvania and southern New York before returning to the North Country Monday, Nov. 30. On that day, the train will make stops in Saratoga Springs, Fort Edward, Whitehall, Ticonderoga and Port Henry before making its last stop at the Amtrak station in Plattsburgh at approximately 9:15 p.m.
In addition to the train visiting the Northeast, Canadian Pacific will also have Holiday Trains visiting more than 130 communities throughout the Midwest and Canada through mid-December.
For more information about the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, including a detailed listing of its route and performers, visit www.cpr.ca and click on the link for the Holiday Train.