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Holiday Train spurs food pantry donations

Just 24 hours after appearing on a rail car stage in Kenmare, the a capella group Home Free was performing on network television.

12/23/14 (Tue)

Rising star... Kira Isabella, Canada's Country Music Association's Artist of the Year, performs last week in Kenmare on the Canadian Pacific Railway's Holiday Train stage.

By Marvin Baker

Just 24 hours after appearing on a rail car stage in Kenmare, the a capella group Home Free was performing on network television.

NBC’s The Sing Off was taped, but aired Wednesday night so Kenmare area residents had the opportunity to see this Mankato, Minn., singing group on two consecutive nights.

Home Free, along with Kira Isabella, rolled into Kenmare Tuesday night on the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Holiday Train, its last U.S. stop.

Those performances prompted three simultaneous donations that will keep the Kenmare Food Pantry stocked for the foreseeable future, according to Jane Kalmbach, who operates the food pantry.

“We received more than 300 pounds of food and about 80 percent were healthy donations,” Kalmbach said. “We got a lot of great cereal, soups and vegetables.”

That’s the purpose of the Holiday Train. Stop in a community, provide a free concert and ask the public for a free will donation to the local food pantry.

But it didn’t stop there.

Kalmbach, along with Kenmare city auditor Barb Wiedmer, were called on stage to accept a $4,500 check from Canadian Pacific Railway to add to the food pantry to help reach those in need.

“Yes, $4,500,” Kalmbach said. “This will be spent locally throughout the next year.”

Andy Cummings, a media relations manager with CP Rail in Minneapolis, said Canadian Pacific increased its donations to local food banks last year to the present amount.

“We know the need exists in communities all along our network,” Cummings said. “We’re pleased to be able to contribute more toward this important cause.”

The Kenmare-Donnybrook Methodist Church was also in a giving mood and donated a whole processed beef to the food pantry, valued at approximately $2,600.

“The church announced it to add to the Holiday Train happiness,” Kalmbach said. “We are so grateful for that.”

This short passenger train lit up with Christmas lights brought additional activities and good cheer to downtown Kenmare.

Santa Claus, who told the media earlier he wouldn’t be on the train this year, arrived in town earlier than the Holiday Train, mingling with children in the crowd and later dancing on stage with the performers.

The Lutheran Youth Organization kept the crowd warm with hot chocolate and cider and several businesses, Kenmare Floral, Kenmare Drug, Gathering Grounds and One Stop, all stayed open late to accommodate the crowd.

“The Kenmare Food Pantry is so thankful for the generosity, both last night (Dec. 16) and throughout the year,” Kalmbach said. “To the local businesses for donations and staying open late to help add to this event, thank you! The music was great, my feet were cold – my heart was warm from the generosity shown.”

A large crowd gathered to see Isabella and Home Free perform for about a half hour on the open air stage with the temperature at 18 degrees.

According to Cummings, the Holiday Train team was impressed with the turnout in Kenmare, which is estimated between 300 and 400.

“It was heartening to see residents showing up to help their neighbors,” he said.

And Kenmare residents were treated to a truly professional show.

At only 20 years old, Isabella is already an accomplished country singer and has won numerous Canadian country music awards and has had several albums released, including her latest, “Caffeine and Big Dreams.”

Even though the Ottawa native’s professionalism was spot on, Isabella was just having fun with the crowd, the members of Home Free and Santa Claus.

Home Free was named winner of season 4 of The Sing Off last December and was asked to return for an encore performance.

Following the Kenmare stop, last Tuesday, Home Free has performed in Estevan and Weyburn, Sask., Dickinson, Rapid City and Sioux Falls, S.D., their hometown of Mankato, Minn., and Eu Claire, Wis.

Isabella’s next performance will be in Ottawa in late January. Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!